Of course the Holidays are the season for sparkling wine, but are you looking for something different, delicious, and reasonably priced that is a worthy alternative to Champagne?!? Then we’ve got you covered! Crémant is a French sparkling wine made in the Champagne style and with Champagne quality but often at a fraction of the price! If you are throwing a Holiday party or bringing a gift to your host, you cannot go wrong with Crémant. There are many different styles of Crémant based on the region they come from and the grapes that are used, which makes them also exciting and fun to try. In this episode we try Crémant from 3 different regions of France, each of which is in a different style and varied in taste, and we talk about what makes Crémant great. We will say, too, that all of these wines are great, but one of them knocked our socks fully off! The other thing is these wines are really not hard to find, you just need to seek them out - and trust us, it is worth it. Wines reviewed in this episode: Andre Delorme Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blancs Brut Reserve, Joseph Cattin Crémant d'Alsace Brut, and 2019 Calvet Crémant de Bordeaux Brut Rosé.
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Episode 54: Holiday Sparkling Wines #1: Crémant! (Amazing French sparkling wine, great reasonably priced Champagne alternative, demystifying sparkling wine) 00:00
Hello! And welcome to The Wine Pair Podcast. I’m Joe, your sommelier of reasonably priced wine, and this is my wife and my wine pairing partner in crime, Carmela. And we are The Wine Pair!
Ok, a quick orientation for those of you who may be new to the podcast - in each episode we learn about, taste and review three wines that are reasonably priced - meaning under $20 - and should be easy for you to find. Our goal is to have some fun, learn about some new wines, and talk about wines in a way that regular people like us can understand. And we are proud to say we are officially recommended by the editors of Decanter Magazine, who call us fun, irreverent, chatty, and entertaining.
Well, as we record this we are heading into the very heart of the Holiday season, and if you associate a wine with the Holidays, to me, that is sparkling wine! Don’t you think?!? We are big fans of sparkling wine, and in fact, we are believers that sparkling wines should be considered everyday wines. But we were not always that way, were we? Why not? I think I always thought of sparkling wine as sort of sweet and crappy, and reserved for New Years Eve or weddings or something - mostly because we were rarely exposed to sparkling wines of any quality, and people just did not drink sparkling wine unless there was a special occasion. Well, maybe in your house, but not in mine.
Growing up, and when we started to drink, most of the time the sparkling wine we drank was crummy wines like Andre or Cooks. Something cheap with some fizz. But those are just not good and so I always wondered what the big deal was with sparkling wines! Apologies to those of you out there in listening land who like those wines, but I will not drink them. And, really, there is no reason to because there are so many good, inexpensive sparkling wines out there - Cava, Prosecco, domestic US sparklers, and the one we are tasting and reviewing today called Crémant.
In a bit, we’ll talk about what Crémant is, but we are betting many of you out there in listening land don’t know what that is. Crémant is sparkling wine from France that is not Champagne. And why is it not Champagne, Carmela?
That’s right, it is not Champagne because Champagne is a specific sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France. So, it is a mistake to call all sparkling wine Champagne! In fact, a lot of sparkling wines made in Europe are named for the region they come from and or the style of sparkling wine they are, which in the case of Cava can be from anywhere in Spain, but it has to be made in the Champagne style or method.
We’ll just say that sparkling wine can be a little tricky because there are so many styles and regions, and, like rosé wine, sparkling wine is a style, not a varietal, so depending on how it is made, what grapes are used, how they are blended, etc. sparkling wine can vary a ton!
The other thing that can make sparkling wine tricky, and we say this all the time, is that the term used to tell if a sparkling wine is dry is the word “brut” - BUT - the word “dry” on a sparkling wine means sweet. AGGGHH!!! Are they trying to confuse us?
I think that will be the theme of this episode - trying to unconfuse this confusing category of sparkling wines.
Not really, but this is the reason why we wanted to do this episode, and why we will do a few episodes on sparkling wines this season, and have done some sparkling wine episodes prior to this - because 1) sparkling wine is awesome, and 2) there is a ton to learn about sparkling wine.
For reference, a few previous episodes that cover sparkling wine are Episode 5 where we cover sparkling wine in a can (which was very early in our podcasting lives), Episode 9 from last year’s holidays where we talked about Cava, which is a great Spanish sparkling wine you have to try, Episode 34 where we talk about American sparkling wines, and the episode I did a few weeks ago where we interviewed Fiona Perrin of Rendez-Vous Champagne.
So, I say we get to it and talk about this awesome French sparkling wine that all of you out there in listening land should know . . .
But first . . . we have to do our shameless plug, right Carmela? If you are enjoying our show so far, and who wouldn’t be, why don’t you just go ahead and subscribe to our podcast, or leave us a nice a rating and review on our website on your podcast service so that people who might stumble upon us will say, hey, this looks like a podcast for me!
You can also follow us or reach out to us on Instagram at thewinepairpodcast or on CounterSocial - our Twitter alternative of choice - or contact us on our website thewinepairpodcast.com.
And, as we do every week, we’ll tell you someone we think you should tell about The Wine Pair Podcast, and this week we think you should tell anyone who calls any sparkling wine Champagne. I’ve gotten to the point where I have to ask people when they say “do you want some Champagne?” what Champagne are you talking about, and like half the time they say Prosecco. And it kills me.
ARTICLES and LINKS
Topic: What is Crémant, and how is it different from Champagne? 08:50
So, Crémant really is a thing and let’s talk about how it is different from Champagne. I found this GREAT article on the interwebs from Savage Wines that I have a link to in our show notes, but here are some facts about Crémant. Are you ready for some facts?!?
As we said, Crémant is a French sparkling wine that is made outside of the region of Champagne in France, but is made in the same way that Champagne is made. And, in order to have the designation in France of Crémant, there are very specific rules.
There are also other French sparkling wines that are neither Crémant and are not Champagne, so it is not true that ALL French wines made outside of Champagne are Crémant. I know. Confusing!
There are 8 regions in France where Crémant is made, including from the three we are going to taste today, and those are Burgundy AKA Bourgogne, Bordeaux, and Alsace. Some other regions where it is made are also Limoux and Loire. In fact Loire is the largest maker of French sparkling wine outside of Champagne. Interestingly, there are also two Crémant designations outside of France - one in Belgium and one in Luxembourg. So, Crémant is actually a legal designation of the EU rather than France, and I have seen some American sparkling wine makers use the name Crémant on their wines, but they really should not.
As we mentioned, Crémant is made in the traditional method, which means the same method as is used to make Champagne. In this method, there is a second fermentation that takes place in the bottle, and this is what gives Crémant its creamy, rich, bubbly texture. In fact, the word Crémant means - do you have a guess “creamy.”
One very nerdy side note - originally Crémant was a term used in the Champagne region for sparkling wines that were slightly lower in carbon dioxide - again where the term “creamy” came from. When the EU and France cracked down on people using the name Champagne outside of the Champagne area, they gave an official designation of Crémant to sparkling wines outside of Champagne, but in Champagne, they also stopped using the term Crémant. Are you confused yet?!? Lots of rules!
One difference between Champagne and Crémant is that Champagne is very strict in terms of what grapes can be used - the most typical is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier - but in Crémant, depending on the region, you can have a very wide variety of grapes used. I won’t go into what each region requires because that could take a while and just give you a headache, but let’s just say that what makes sparkling wines unique very often is that they are blends of different grapes, and in fact they often blend in sparkling wines from previous years. (This is also why very often sparkling wines do not have a year or vintage on them. In fact, it is a really big deal when a Champagne has a vintage or year - it means that it is supposed to be a really exceptional year for the grapes.) CONFUSING!
What makes Crémant particularly awesome is 1) there is lots of variety depending on the region and grapes used, 2) it is made in the traditional Champagne style, so the quality is very high, and 3) unlike Champagne, which can be ass expensive, Crémant is usually reasonably priced! Which is why we are talking about it on our podcast! French sparkling wine that is high quality and lower in price?!? YASS!!!
Some of you may be wondering where the best Crémant comes from, but that is hard to say. In fact, that is why we specifically chose three different Crémant wines from three different regions because we wanted to see what the difference was between them. We also chose three different styles which we will talk about in a bit, but one is a blanc de blanc - which means only made from grapes that make white wines - and one that is a sparkling rosé - which again is a style, not a set of grapes. And, so we think the best way to learn what Crémant is and what you like best is to try different Crémants from different regions.
How about we talk about the Crémant wines we chose for this episode?!?
ARTICLES and LINKS
Crémant Sparkling Wines We Chose for This Episode 16:09
Again, all of these Crémants are at least somewhat easy to find, because we bought them all at wine.com. And all of them are under $20, which is just what we do on this podcast. And, as an extra bonus, all of these Crémants have a rating of at least 89 from some reviewers. So, although you can’t always trust what reviewers say - I mean, afterall, if you have listened to us before you know you have to take any ratings or reviews with a grain of salt. However, we did want to choose some wines that had at least had a verified tasting from someone else so that we could at least be sure of some sort of quality.
The first Crémant is from Burgundy - woo hoo - which is of course famous for - what? Pinot Noir and Chardonnay! This sucker has a long name - are you ready? Andre Delorme Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blancs Brut Reserve. Bourgogne (Bour-gohn-yeh) is the French word for Burgundy by the way.
Blanc de Blancs again means that all of the grapes in the wine are white wine grapes. This one was a little hard to find out information about - there seemed to be several versions of this wine when I was looking for it online, but I know that this wine is at least made from Chardonnay and potentially a wine grape called Aligote (alley-gotay) also from Burgundy.
This is how Andre Delorme describes how their wine is made: When the harvests arrive, we press the grapes slowly using our pneumatic wine presses. Only the first presses are used to produce our wines. Malolactic fermentation takes place in our 100% stainless steel vats. Secondary fermentation, in the bottle (according to the traditional method), is carried out by adding yeasts and sugar. This is followed by 18 months of aging on lees in our temperature-controlled cellars.
A few vocab words for you:
Malolactic fermentation - which we have talked about in several of our previous episodes - is a process where a lactic bacteria is added to the wine to mellow out some of the acidity and make it “creamier” in the mouth.
Lees are leftover yeast particles, and lees are used in white and sparkling wines to add textures and flavors.
So, because this is made with Chardonnay, I expect it to have some similarities to Champagne. And, incidentally, Wilfred Wong of wine.com gave this wine an 89 rating.
The second wine is called Joseph Cattin Crémant d'Alsace Brut. Alsace is in the northern part of France near Germany, and is well known for its German style wines like Riesling, and also some Pinot Noir. This Crémant is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Chardonnay. I am not sure how much of each, but I expect this to be a different tasting wine than the last one.
According to the winery, this is how they make their wine: grapes are gently pressed into stainless steel tanks, thermo-regulated to ensure a low temperature fermentation (12º-18ºC) that will preserve the flavors / after the first fermentation, the wine is bottled and aged for at least 12 months before secondary fermentation Aging: 4 months minimum in stainless steel & 12 months minimum in bottle.
This wine got a 91 rating from Wine Enthusiast, so there’s that!
The final Crémant we are going to try is called Calvet Crémant de Bordeaux Brut Rosé. So, not only is this wine from Bordeaux, but it is also a rosé - and rosé again is not a varietal but a style in which the grape juice is kept in contact with the dark grape skins for no more than 24 hours.
This wine is very interesting because it is 90% Cabernet Franc and 10% Merlot. They don’t call it a Blanc de Noir, but if it were a clear wine, they would because the wine grapes are grapes that traditionally make red wine.
This wine also received an 89 from Wilfred Wong.
The winery says this about their wine production: Grapes manually harvested in small boxes, pressed and settled. Alcoholic fermentation with temperatures controlled at 16-18°C. Followed by second fermentation in bottles for 9 months before disgorging and dosage.
One more vocabulary word:
Dosage (with American accent) is the term for the sugar or sweet wine that is added to a sparkling wine before corking. In a Brut, there is very little sugar added, and in extra Brut, or Brut Nature, no extra sugar is added.
All right, enough of that jibber jabber, I think it’s time to try some wine!
ARTICLES and LINKS
Crémant wine pairing tasting and review 22:35
Wine: Andre Delorme Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blancs Brut Reserve
Region: France, Burgundy
Producer: Andre Delorme
Grapes: Chardonnay and maybe Aligote (some are saying Pinot Noir, but this is incorrect)
Professional Rating: WW 89
What we tasted and smelled in this Crémant: Spice, ginger, cinnamon, spiced apple cider, honeydew melon, vanilla, baking spices, fresh baked bread, fresh baked croissant, apple. Dry.
Food to pair with this Crémant: Good appetizer wine. Charcuterie. Puffed pastry with brie and fig jam. Spicy food. Thanksgiving dinner. Stuffing. Amazing price point for this wine.
As a reminder on our rating scale, we rate on a scale of 1-10, where 7 and above means that we would buy it, and 4 and below means that we are likely to pour it down the sink, and in-between we are likely to drink it and finish it, but we are probably not going to buy it.
- Joe: 8/10
- Carmela: 7/10
Wine: Joseph Cattin Crémant d'Alsace Brut
Region: France, Alsace
Producer: Joseph Cattin
Grapes: Pinot Blanc / Pinot Gris / Riesling / Chardonnay
Professional Rating: WE 91
What we tasted and smelled in this Crémant: Yeast, toast, citrus, orange, honeycrisp apple, Asian pear. Delicious. Punches above its weight class. A great gift wine.
Food to pair with this Crémant: Dinner wine. Spicy foods. Fried foods. Steak. Roast.
- Joe: 9/10
- Carmela: 9/10
Wine: Calvet Crémant de Bordeaux Brut Rosé
Region: France, Bordeaux
Year: 2019 (rare to have a vintage)
Grapes: 90% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot
Professional Rating: WW 89
What we tasted and smelled in this Crémant: Yeast, watermelon, strawberry, juicy red fruits, Capri Sun, watermelon Jolly Rancher, kiwi, spice, bready, peach. Feels more like a summer wine. Refreshing.
Food to pair with this Crémant: Cheese board. Spinach stuffed puffed pastry. Appetizer wine. White pizza. Summer salad.
- Joe: 7/10
- Carmela: 6/10
Which one of these are you finishing tonight?
- Carmela: Joseph Cattin Crémant d'Alsace Brut
- Joe: Joseph Cattin Crémant d'Alsace Brut
What do you think about Crémant?
GREAT alternative to Champagne, and an amazing price point for such a good French sparkling wine.
Taste profiles expected from Crémant: 46:01
- Andre Delorme Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blancs Brut Reserve
- Winery: the nose reveals notes of white flowers. In the mouth, hints of peaches and pears produce an undisputed touch of freshness.
- WW: aromas and flavors of apple, tart nectarine, and mineral notes
- Joseph Cattin Crémant d'Alsace Brut
- Winery: This wine has fine bubbles and offers fresh notes of green apple and white flowers. On the palate, it is dry, with lively acidity balanced with fruitiness of green apple and lemon.
- WE: Subtle notes of ripe apple combine with hints of shortbread on the nose of this wine. The palate adds notions of juicy, ripe, yellow plum. All is fruity but subtle.
- Calvet Crémant de Bordeaux Brut Rosé
- Winery: An elegant nose of raspberries and cassis. Very fine and persistent pinpoint bubbles that tease the mouth and lovely finish of crisp, round, fruity flavors.
- WW: This wine shows aromas and flavors of tart red fruit that are vibrant and lasting.
Outro and how to find The Wine Pair Podcast 48:03
As always, thank you so very much for listening to us, we are The Wine Pair Podcast, and you know, while you’re thinking about it, we think you should subscribe and give us a nice rating!
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Thanks for listening to the Wine Pair podcast, and we will see you next time. And, as we say, life is short, so stop drinking shitty wine and drink more sparkling wine!