Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Cremant, the undiscovered bubbly

We Brits love our bubbles. We enjoy celebrating with a chilled glass, whether it's a once in a lifetime wedding or just the relief of getting to the weekend. We love sparkling wine so much, our yearly sales have passed the £1billion mark! Of course, we know Champagne, Cava and Prosecco. But what would Cremant? 

Champagne is a term which can only be used for sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France - two small pockets of land up in the north east. Special rules have to be followed; grapes must be harvested within the Champagne region, second fermentation in the bottle and there are rules on permissible grape varieties. 

In the same way, Cremant can only be used to describe a sparkling wine which is hand harvested, either in whole bunches or destemmed grapes (a highly labour intensive process, which helps guarantee quality), an initial 9 months fermentation in lees, disgorgement, a further 3 months second fermentation in the bottle before sale. Like the better known AOP wines of France (Appellation d'Origine Protégée), only designated regions can call their creamy and delicate sparkling wines Cremant. These regions (which are 7 in number), include some of the most world famous wine regions of France; Loire, Bordeaux, Rhône Valley, Bourgogne (Burgundy), Limoux, Jura and Alsace. Household names, but not necessarily for fizzy wine. 

I was recently invited by Business France, the French Trade Commission to their Cremant wine tasting. 15 winemakers from 6 of the Cremant regions were exhibiting. I found some wonderful wines which can be bought in the UK online along with several which I hope will be picked up by supermarkets, online stores and wine merchants very soon.

First up was a Bourgogne Cremant made from 100% Chardonnay grapes in Macon Loche. Made organically and biodynamically by family producers Celine and Laurent Tripoz, the Celine et Laurent Tripoz Brut Nature was a great discovery. Available through Wine Sensations (winesensations.co.UK), retailing for £17.95, this was a very authentic Cremant de Bourgogne; exceptionally light colour, low sulphur (meaning no hangover in the morning!), no added sugar and a good taste of the wine behind the bubbles. I loved the freshness and acidity.

Another super Cremant de Bourgogne was the Veuve Ambal "Cremant de Bourgogne Grande Cuvee Veuve Ambal". Founded by Marie Ambal, the widow or "Veuve" after whom the winery was named, in 1898. This Cremant is blended from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Aligote and Gamay grapes. The colour was a touch more yellow, much more like Champagne. Similarly, the yeasty, sweet brioche smell of Champagne was present here, something I love in sparkling wines. Peach and pear fruity notes, with subtlety in the flavour makes this a layered bubbly perfect for food, particularly fish. The wine is available from Enotria and Coe, and won the Gold medal at 2015's Effervescents du Monde competition. 

A not-to-be-missed Cremant de Bordeaux was the "Black Pearl" Brut Blanc de Noirs by Celene. Unbelievably, this wine is currently unavailable in the UK. Made from 100% Cabernet Franc grapes, it is a sparkling white wine made of black grapes hence the "Blanc de noirs" of the title. Situated in the Entre-Deux-Mers area of Bordeaux, sea breeze and mist is a vitally important influence on the flavour in the grapes. 

The cellars where the wine is fermented were carved into the chalk soil on the right bank of the Garonne way back in the 16th Century. The wine is ultra pale and delicate in colour with a pronounced floral aroma. The gentle bubbles with absolutely no harshness is a testament to the skill of the makers. Smooth front of mouth flavours, sophisticated middle, great finish and super aftertaste. I'm sure UK wine lovers will embrace this wine. Let's see it available!

The best rose I sampled was from the Loire Valley, the Bouvet Cremant de Loire Rose, Brut. Whist being dry, it has no harsh acidity. The smooth finish was a distinguishing feature, as was the gentle flavour. Available from Watermill Wines in the UK, Bouvet Ladubay have been making wine since 1851 and at the end of the 19th Century was known as the number one producer of fizzy wine in the world. A fabulous wine for sunshine Summer Wedding parties!

One of the most individual and unique Cremants I had the pleasure of trying was the Jaillance Cremant de Die Brut Bio. The winner of the Silver Medal at the Challenge Millesme Bio competition 2016 for organic wines, this wine has smoothness and sophistication across every element of the flavour. It is difficult for the initial taste, middle and finish to reconcile. Smoothness on the first sip, through the middle with delicate pear and a silky finish, topped off with a good yeasty aroma. This is a wine which UK consumers will enjoy, it's a worthy prizewinning wine. I hope that someone enterprising with good taste will pick it up, and soon!

Domaine Jean Bourdy in the Jura region produces the UK available Caves Jean Bourdy Cremant du Jura Brut made of 100% Chardonnay grapes. Dudley Craig wines represent them in the UK, and you can buy this biodynamic, smooth, light Cremant with slight yeastiness and fine bubbles for £16.95 a bottle. Pale, delicate with a good finish (no dryness at the back of the throat), it is a real treat. A family run winery for 500 years, Jean Bourdy has an enviable heritage. The same ancient techniques are used to ensure the wine is typical of the Jura Appellation. Jean-Francois and Jean-Phillipe Bourdy are the 15th generation running the Domaine. Now that's a family business you wouldn't mind going into!

I will round off with another treat: Langlois-Chateau's Quadrille de Langlois-Chateau Extra Brut Cremant de Loire. A 2007 vintage, made from 60% Chenin, 15-20% Chardonnay, 10% Cabernet Franc and 10% Pinot Noir grapes, this is something special. The bubbles are delicate, non aggressive, small and regular. The Chateau has been in production since 1885 and are now owned by none other than Bollinger! They approach production with some exacting standards; only first pressings of the grapes are used and the wines are aged for a minimum of two years. The wine has an effervescent initial taste of beautiful, mellow fizz. Pale elegance abounds with deceptive mildness. Available through Mentzendorff, this was part of an overall batch of 15,000 bottles. Don't let the "extra Brut" label put you off, this is class in a glass.

I have had my eyes opened. Too often I opt for the easy choice of Prosecco when on a budget, Champagne when pushing the boat out, Cava with tapas... It's high time to broaden my horizons. I hope I have encouraged you to try something different next time you choose to crack open a bottle of bubbles!

Snigdha visited the Cremant tasting organised by Business France as their guest. This review represents my honest opinions. Snigdha has received no incentive, financial or otherwise for posting this review.


  1. My sister loves sparkling wines do I've been buying her various cremants for many years, as Pete and I used to make more regular trips to France. Time to resurrect, I think. But definitely, France lovers have known this secret for a long time. We were silently taking advantage of those great prices! ;-)

    1. Hello Kavey,
      I am envious that you've had knowledge of these splendid wines for much longer than I have! It is strange that UK wine buyers love fizzy wines, yet generally have little knowledge of these super Cremants. I think it won't take much for this to change - especially once punters realise the manufacture process is the same as Champagne!
      Thank you for reading, as always, Kavey, and for stopping by to comment!
      with love

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