Crémant. Elegant and Affordable Sparklers from France - Richard Esling April 20
Produced in eight different regions of France, crémant wines are amongst the best value sparkling wines found anywhere.
For those looking for a cheaper alternative to champagne, but still with a great deal of character, look no further. Due principally to a massive marketing drive a few years ago, Prosecco has often filled the place of cheaper sparkling wine, but it is nearly always a far simpler and less characterful wine than crémant.
Crémant is produced by the ‘méthode traditionelle’ which is the same method as champagne, including secondary fermentation (producing the fizz) in the bottle. Although typically half the price of champagne, don’t make the mistake of thinking it is just discount fizz. Local grape varieties are used in each of the eight different regions of production and together with ageing on the lees for at least 9 months, this builds in stacks of character and complexity.
White, rosé, non-vintage and vintage styles exist, the vast majority being the dry ‘Brut’ finish, typically drier than the majority of Prosecco wines – ‘Extra-Dry’ seen on the labels of many Prosecco bottles, is actually a deal sweeter than Brut. Crémant sparkling wines can only come from specific regions, many of which are better known for producing still wines, such as Bordeaux and Burgundy. Champagne can only come from the champagne region, known almost exclusively for sparkling wines.
In the past five years, there has been a tremendous increase in interest in the different crémant wines from around France, all of which are worth trying and represent great value for money. Here are just three suggestions, selected from amongst the many - particularly good if you are an Ocado customer, from which they are all available.
Calvet is one of the oldest established wine merchant companies in Bordeaux and amongst their extensive range of wines is a fine Crémant de Bordeaux Brut. With their many years of winemaking expertise, they have crafted a soft, fruity, fresh sparkler, with notes of mirabelle plums and fresh brioche. Using mainly Semillon grapes, the colour is pale golden yellow, with a fine mousse. On offer at Ocado at £10.20 and also on Amazon.
Moving across France to the ‘opposition’ so to speak, François Martenot based in Meursault in the heart of Burgundy, produces a deliciously fresh and fruity Crémant de Bourgogne Brut from Chardonnay and Gamay grapes, with a current vintage of 2018 on sale. The attractive bottle presentation recalls the famous roof of the Hospices de Beaune, and the contents do justice to this well-known region, with aromatic intensity matched by good body and elegant, fine flavours. Ocado £12.49 on offer, down from £14.99.
The Loire Valley is home to a host of different sparkling wines, amongst them being Crémant de Loire, a regional appellation from the heart of the Loire Valley vineyards. LaCheteau Cremant de Loire Brut Rosé is made from the Cabernet Franc grape variety and has a fashionably pale pink colour. The delicious, refreshing palate has hints of raspberries, typical of that grape variety, with a well-balanced, complex and full-bodied, red berry character, in part due to 15 months ageing on the lees. Ocado £15.69. Fabulous quality.
Tremendous sparkling wines, which are a perfect fit for sipping in the garden with friends on a fine spring day.