‘Tis the season for bubbles… but which sparkling wine to pick to ring in the New Year? While Champagne gets all the glory, why not try a cheaper French alternative — Crémant? Yes, we’re all about deals and Crémants can give you far more bang for your buck. As the French say (in French, not English!): “Better to drink a good Crémant than a bad Champagne”.
Crémant has been around for a long time. Never heard of it? Well you should listen up. It’s been labeled in France as the “champagne of the poor”, and is perfectly suitable to be drowned under a good dose of crème de cassis. But in the past decade, French Crémants have continued to gain popularity abroad, to the point of becoming a bluffing alternative to Champagne. Have you seen our post on how modern day Rosé trends started in the US? This could be the next one.
What is a Crémant?
Behind this word lies a beautiful variety of sparkling wines produced in the four corners of France. What do they have in common? The exact same winemaking process as in Champagne, i.e. a second fermentation which takes place in the bottle. Hence the name “Méthode Champenoise” which was affixed to these bottles for decades… that is until the producers lost the right to use it in 1975 when it went exclusively to the Champagne region. From that date, the producers chose to label their sparkling wine Crémant, a rather curious choice since that term was used in the Champagne region to designate a “failed” wine (a wine made at low pressure). Maybe it was designed to be a big middle finger to Champagne? Whatever its rationale, today the term Crémant is protected and can only be used in seven specific regions (Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Die, Jura, Limoux, and Loire). There is also a pending application for possible extension to Savoy and Lorraine. In addition to the second fermentation in the bottle, each region has its own specific production requirements (e.g., grape varieties, harvesting, pressing, length of aging on slats).
One of the reasons for the increased interest in Crémants is the increased quality — better grapes, tailor-made harvests, more careful aging, a real consideration for the bubbles and effervescence, and a new demand from the consumer. Crémants can now easily go toe-to-toe with Champagnes in a blind tasting. Something Champagne is not too happy about — yep, Crémants attempt at a double middle finger.
Diversity of styles
Approximately 8,000 hectares of vineyards are dedicated to the production of Crémants, from the banks of the Loire to the Limoux high plateaus, passing through the foothills of the Vosges, the Drôme valley, or the Gironde. Though often all brut or dry, Crémants include different regionally focused grapes, so flavor profiles can vary widely depending on the varieties used and the wine’s origin.
To assist in getting your feet wet with this awesome sparkling wine, we’ve provided links to 10 amazing French Crémants currently available on Vivino (as of Dec. 2020). Happy Hunting!
- Henri Champliau Wild Miss 55 Méthode Ancestrale Rosé
- Obvious Wines No. 5 French & Bubbly
- Wolfberger Reverence IX
- Bailly Lapierre Vive-La-Joie Brut Rosé 2013
- Domaine Pfister Breit Blanc De Blancs Extra Brut 2016
- Château De Mauny Crémant De Loire Brut 2016
- May Georges Crémant De Loire Brut
- De Chastenay Victorine De Chastenay Crémant De Bourgogne Brut Rosé
- Domaine B&B Bouché Crémant De Limoux Brut Rosé
- Hubert Meyer Crémant D’Alsace Brut Rosé
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