A CREMANT FOR CHRISTMAS?
By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 12 November 2016
Anyone looking for a good quality fizzy substitute for cheap Champagne, should look no further than France’s sparkling Cremants. We now have Cremant appellations from eight regions to choose from, all offering their unique styles, with Savoie the latest region to be entitled to use the Cremant term since last year.
The name Cremant derives from ‘creamy’ – originally they were less petillant, from a lower level of carbon dioxide, and thus softer and creamier than Champagne. Today, Cremant bottles have exactly the same bottle pressure as Champagne – and some often make a better buy in comparison to cheap £12 Champagne.
You can almost always rely on Cremant to be of good quality, as it is strictly controlled – all made using the same method as Champagne, with second fermentation in bottle. Some are stylistically very close to ‘the real thing’ too – like rich creamy Cremant de Bourgogne and Cremant de Jura, both made from Chardonnay – some in the case of Burgundy are made very close to Champagne’s border.
The other Cremants from Loire, Alsace, Limoux, Savoie, Die and Bordeaux are made from their region’s grapes often offering a unique taste – and in the case of big selling Loire and Alsace, a crisper alternative to Champagne.
Here are my top Cremant picks from UK shelves today:
CREMANT DE JURA 2012 Philippe Michel ***GOOD VALUE***
Oustanding value favourite in our tasting, this multi-award winning cuvee has won prizes in blind tasting competitions – and always does well matched against Champagne at my own tastings. Crisp, creamy with good length and beautifully packaged – you cannot go wrong with this: 12%
CREMANT DE JURA 2009 Domaine Grand
(£18.95 Berry Bros & Rudd www.bbr.com)
Personally I prefer Jura’s fizz cuvees made from pure Chardonnay, like this one from Domaine Grand in Chateau Chalon in Jura – others also include native grapes Poulsard and Trousseau in the blend. It is rare to find a mature blend like this richly fruity and toasty 2009 vintage as most remain in the region itself sold in local restaurants or from the cellar door: 12%
CREMANT DE LOIRE CUVEE JEANNE D’ARC NV Chateau de l’Aulee ***STAR BUY***
Grape: Chenin Blanc
Very popular with our tasters who commented on its fruit richness in comparison with refreshing crispness – everything you would want in a fizz at this price level. It is named after Joan of Arc, who rested in this vineyard en route to visit Charles VII at Chinon nearby: 12.5%
CREMANT DE LOIRE L’EXTRA PAR LANGLOIS ROSE NV Langlois Chateau ***STAR BUY***
(£ 9.99 Majestic Wine)
Grape: Cabernet Franc
My pick of the best value Loire Cremants made by a Saumur-based winery owned by Bollinger. Majestic sell two from Langois Chateau – I prefer their rose as it has better fruit with a sweet creamy mid-palate and less austerity than the brut: 12.5%
CREMANT DE LOIRE BRUT 1864 Gratien & Meyer ***STAR BUY***
(£15.50 The Wine Society)
Grapes: 57% Chardonnay & 43% Pinot Noir
This 150th anniversary bottling really is a match for Champagne with rich toastiness and long length – definitely the most sophisticated elegnt cuvee (with oak used to add complexity) in our tasting: 12%
CREMANT DE SAVOIE BRUT NV Domaine de L’Idylle
(£15.60 Yapp Bros www.yapp.co.uk)
Grapes: Pinot Noir, Jacquere & Roussette
The newest Cremant, which gained its appellation status as recently as December 2015, is Cremant de Savoie. This little known region, neighbour to Jura in eastern France, makes attractive fresh creamy cuvees like this one from Philippe & Francois Tiollier based near the famous Savoie wine village of Cruet: 12.5%
CREMANT DE BOURGOGNE LES CHAMPS DE L’ABBAYE NV Alain & Isabelle Hassard
(£12.99 Raeburn Fine Wine, Stockbridge, Edinburgh)
Grape: Chardonnay & Pinot Noir
From a small remarkably good grower in Aluze in Burgundy’s Chalonnaise – this creamy citric fizz is often a popular favourite in our tastings matched against pricier New World fizz. Buy it before Brexit forces French wine prices to rise: 12%
CREMANT DE BOURGOGNE BLANC DE BLANCS NV Cave de Lugny
(£13.99 Waitrose; £14.75 Oddbins)
This all-Chardonnay cuvee from the excellent Lugny co-operative in Maconnais in southern Burgundy is one of the most popular Bourgogne Cremants in the UK with its citric and sleek palate: 11.5%
CREMANT D’ALSACE CUVEE JULIEN NV Dopff au Moulin
Grapes: 50% Pinot Blanc & 50% Auxerrois
Tasters enjoyed the pear and apple flavours and crisp refreshing finish of this cuvee, one of the better Alsace Cremants from the fizz pioneers Dopff au Moulin based in the picturesque mediaeval village of Riquewihr : 12%
CREMANT DE LIMOUX NV Francoise Antech
(£11.95 Berry Bros & Rudd www.bbr.com)
Grapes: 70% Chardonnay, 30% Chenin Blanc & Mauzac
Limoux Cremants are harder to find in the UK, mainly bought by those who discover them on holidays in beautiful Limoux in south west France. This family winery cuvee is one of the best sold here – with toasty creamy leesy texture and spiciness of this cuvee: 12%
CREMANT DE BORDEAUX BRUT 2013 Calvet
(£8.98 Asda; £8.99 reduced from £11.99 Ocado)
Grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Franc & Semillon
Cremant de Bordeaux is my least favourite of the French Cremants, as historically the Bordelais have not focused on improving quality. This Entre deux Mers Brut offering from Calvet is the best on the market: 11.5%
Join Rose’s pre-Christmas Champagne & Sparkling wine tasting & buffet in Abode Hotel, 129 Bath Street, Glasgow on Thursday 15 December £42pp www.rosemurraybrown.com
The perfect gift for the wine enthusiast in the family. Rose does In-person tastings too.
Rose does cellar valuations for private clients, valuations for insurers & bespoke portfolio management.
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