Crémant: A Sparkling Gem
by Michel Thibault, owner of Michel Thibault Wines
Crémants are getting very popular nowadays, and for very good reasons. These sparklers can be very tasty and compared to champagnes, they usually cost half the price!
Crémant is a term that applies to sparkling wine in the sense that it is generally slightly less fizzy than Champagne, and also a wine that is produced outside of the Champagne zone. There are actually many Crémants, such as the one in Alsace, generally produced from Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Another is the Crémant de Bordeaux, made from Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle, Semillon. A third one comes from the Jura – the more popular white being made from Chardonnay, Trousseau and Pinot Noir.
Altogether, there are seven appellations of Crémant in France with the two most popular being Crémant de Loire and Crémant de Bourgogne. In the Loire Crémant, you often find Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and sometimes Cabernet Franc (never Sauvignon Blanc) and in the Crémant de Bourgogne, you will find Chardonnay, Melon de Bourgogne, Aligoté and Pinot Blanc. In the reds, it will be primarily Pinot Noir with some Gamay.
Crémants de Bourgogne came to life in the early 1830’s and were grown in such viticultural areas as Nuits-Saint-Georges, and Rully to the South as well as Chablis to the North. In 1975, a specific appellation was created for all Crémants, giving sparkling wine customers a cheaper option to the pricier Champagnes. Today, less Crémants are produced in the areas surrounding Beaune as pricing for Premiers Crus and Grands Crus wine have made it much more profitable to grow Pinot Noir for still wines.
Popular brands of Crémant de Bourgogne include Veuve Ambal, a huge house located on the southern edge of Beaune. Its output is in the millions of bottles but what’s amazing is that the wines are of quality similar to the ones from small producers. They hold a raciness, a fruity edge, which are very pleasing.
Another popular brand of Crémants is the one coming out of Jean-Claude Boisset’s stable, under the JCB label. Each offers a number such as 21, for the Crémant produced in the Côte d’Or (a French department or region which bears the number 21 on its cars license plates) or 69 (the year Boisset was born). Gimmicky maybe, but the Boisset wines exhibit terroir-driven qualities and although prices are not cheap – $22-$28 for most Crémants – they never seem to be bad deals.
We found our favorite Crémant de Bourgogne at Château de Montigny-sur-Aube, while visiting the estate owner, the dynamic Marie-France Ménage-Small. We fell in love with the Montigny Brut white – an assemblage of Pinot Noir, Gamay and Chardonnay. Its profile is of small bubbles with low fizz, fruity and nutty fragrances, soft and rewarding entry and fautless finish. When drinking this wine, I am reminded of Taittinger Brut La Française and of some of the upper cuvées of Nicolas Feuillatte, all priced $35-$50, while the Montigny Crémants are a steal at $16.99.
The Château de Montigny-sur-Aube Rosé is mostly Pinot Noir – a very serious wine. Madame Ménage-Small often serves the Rosé with smoked salmon, which perfectly compliments the salinity of the fish. Best tasting for me though was when I drank the Rosé while eating a chocolate lava cake. Oh my! It made the cake taste like fresh strawberries.
Crémants these days are mostly produced east of Auxerre and Chablis. The region is enchanting and far from the tourist playgrounds. When next in France, after visiting the Champagne region, take a drive south and experience Crémant. I raise my glass to your enjoyment!
More about our experiences at Château de Montigny-sur-Aube, the unforgettable Madame Marie-France Ménage-Small and her Crémants here.
To order the Crémants, click here: