The cork has long popped on the days when sparkling wine was regarded as a drink limited to celebration occasions only. Helped greatly by sales of Italy’s Prosecco, whose keen price and fruity flavours delivered the decadence over the last decade but without any guilt of extravagance.
In the immediate past, the premium quality sparkling wines outside Champagne, the Crémants have seen a surge in popularity, especially on our neighbour’s island. Keen to share in the £850 million sales of 120 million bottles of bubblies in Britain’s supermarkets and shops last year, Crémants from the designated eight French wine regions (Alsace, Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Die, Jura, Limoux, Loire and Savoie) have been making an impact.
However, that impact is more likely to dilute sales of Champagne than Prosecco because of their lower costs and perceived hand-crafted production. While Crémants are made in the same complex and labour intensive Traditional Method as the sparkling wines from the Champagne region, they don’t have the same grape varieties.
Instead, they prefer to use their local grape varieties often blending green and black skinned grapes. However, the black skins are removed immediately after pressing to ensure their pigment does not stain the colourless grape juice.
In Ireland, the more popular Crémants are from Bourgogne (aka Burgundy) and the Loire.
The grapes used in Burgundy are the same varieties as those planted in Champagne’s vineyards: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. However, Crémant de Bourgogne may also include locals Aligoté and Gamay. Aligoté as a still white ultra-dry wine is enjoyed within the region as a Kir where a little Crème de Cassis liqueur is added to sweeten the lemony acidity.
Whereas Gamay is more famous as the red wines of Burgundy’s Beaujolais district and its popular village wine of Fleurie. Much of Burgundy’s Crémants are made in the district of Macon, enjoyed for its easy style and pocket-friendly Chardonnay, Macon-Lugny and richer oaked Chardonnay, Pouilly-Fuissé.
France’s longest river, the Loire offers a diverse range of grape varieties to make the Crémant de Loire. From Chenin Blanc (only in the Vouvray district), to Chardonnay around Saumur and black grapes Cabernet Franc and Gamay around the Touraine district, named after the Roman town of Tours.
Little Luxembourg is represented too because, outside France, it is the only country that names its Traditional Method sparkling wines as Crémant. From steep vineyards flanking the Moselle river, Crémant de Luxembourg often has Riesling added to the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for its own local accent.
L’Extra Langlois Brut, Crémant de Loire, Langlois-Chateau
€17.95 reduced from €19.95 until May 27th at O’Brien’s nationwide
Pale lemon in colour. Light aromas of freshly zested lemons. Youthful freshness and well integrated acidity giving an overall balance and elegance.
Over half the blend made with the local star, Chenin Blanc and 40% Chardonnay for a more familiar accent. Owned by Champagne House, Bollinger for 45 years.
Food friend: delicious with a Camembert style cheese from goat’s milk – Gortnamona.
Tête de Cuvée Brut, Vouvray Méthod Traditionelle Sparkling Wine, Chateau Moncontour, Loire
€29.99 in Dublin at Blackrock Cellar, Clontarf Wines and Corkscrew. In Cork at JJ O’Driscoll’s, Ballinlough and Wineonline.ie
Deep golden with Chenin Blanc’s trademark waxy lanolin aromas and a highlight of honeysuckle. Richly flavoured with yellow plum and quince. Aged for 14 months in its bottle on its lees in the cellars carved from the limestone cliff under the chateau. Great depth of flavour despite the light alcohol.
Food friend: experiment with a sweet and sour pork.
Bouvet Rosé Brut, Crémant de Loire
€23.95 at Whelehans Wines, Loughlinstown
A pale blush of a salmon pink colour.
Dry but without any austerity. Made with Cabernet Franc which gives the wine its suppleness and roundness. Rich enough to share with food.
Food friend: keep it pink and pair with smoked salmon rolled around a cream cheese filling.
Louis Picamelot Les Terroirs Brut, Crémant de Bourgogne
€28.95 at Searson’s, Monkstown and online: searsons.com
Straw golden colour. Delicately scented with acacia honey. A classic Brut style, crisp and dry with lemony acidity and a zesty palate with grapefruit on the finish.
Composed of nearly equal amounts of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with 20% of Burgundy’s lesser known light white, Aligoté.
Food friend: serve with a baked onion tart.
Manciat-Poncet Brut, Crémant de Bourgogne
€21.50 online at jnwine.com
A very delicate sparkler with a Marietta biscuit and lemon character. A tradition of wine-making over five generations for nearly 150 years.
A celebration of the Burgundy region’s four varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay and Aligoté.
Food friend: perfect as a conversation starter with a drizzle of the local blackcurrant liqueur, Crème de Cassis for a Kir Royale.
Bernard-Massard Cuvée de L’Écusson Brut, Méthod Traditionelle de Luxembourg
€30 at Blackrock Cellars; Dwan’s Off Licence and widely available at other independent off- licences
Palest lemon in colour with a tint of green. Lime sorbet aromas. Delicate but not dilute palate of citrus fruits and green apples.
A varied blend inspired by its French and German neighbours, Chardonnay and its look-alike, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir and Riesling. Aged for two years in bottle to marry the flavours.
Food friend: excellent as an aperitif or with a platter of shell fish.
Rosé Haute Couture French Bubbles, Boisset Collection, Vin Mousseau de Qualité
€25 at Nolan’s, Clontarf; The Carpenter, Castleknock and O’Donovan’s Chain of Off-licences, Cork citywide
Made sparkling but not in the Traditional Method and from a selection of grapes throughout France. Pale candy floss pink and the confection theme continues on the pretty aromas of raspberry sherbet.
Off-dry fruity flavours of strawberries bruised with icing sugar. An ideal choice for a sparkling alternative to a cocktail.
Food friend: while not sweet, its ripe fruity flavours favour salty nibbles and canapés.
Liam Campbell is one of Ireland’s most experienced wine writers. His work has been featured in the pages of numerous publications, most recently as the Wine & Drinks Editor for The Irish Independent, as well as in Irish Homes, Easy Food and The Dubliner magazines.
Besides writing, his involvement in the world of wine goes deeper: he’s an approved WSET educator and holder of a WSET Diploma, Diploma in Craft Beer & Cider, and he has worked as judge in international wine competitions and as a wine consultant.