The sun’s out, summer is approaching, and we’re all looking forward to the months of outdoor parties, barbecues and get-togethers. And many glasses of fizz.
Happily, there’s never been a better time to buy bubbly. Champagne will always be there as a delicious treat, but the ‘Champagne’ tag inevitably carries a premium, price wise. For those affected by the rise in the cost of living, the good news is that the Champagne region no longer has a monopoly on high-quality fizz. Look beyond France’s premier sparkling region, and you’ll be rewarded – there is a surprising wealth of complex and keenly priced options to discover, in the Crémant sparkling wine category.
Eight regions in France are permitted to use the Crémant label, for sparkling wines made by the traditional Champagne method, where a second fermentation occurs in bottle. The most well known are the Crémants from Loire, Alsace, Burgundy and Limoux, but you’ll also find it in Bordeaux, Jura, Savoie and Rhône (where it’s known as Clairette de Die).
Burgundy with bubbles
The grape varieties used in Crémant will vary according to the region, and the still wines made there. Focusing in on Burgundy, therefore, the mainstays of sparkling are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (the primary Champagne grapes), with Aligoté and Gamay also making an appearance. A Crémant de Bourgogne must contain a minimum of 30% Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, while Gamay content must not exceed 30%.
Traditional-method sparkling wines have been made in Burgundy for more than 200 years, but the official Crémant de Bourgogne appellation was established only in 1975. The region covers a massive area, and with Crémant made across its entirety – from Chablis in the north to Mâconnais in the south – there are many styles and expressions. Typically you’ll find a stronger Pinot Noir presence in sparkling wines from the region’s north, and Chardonnay-dominated blends in the south.
Variety, value and high quality
As for wine styles, you’ll find regular blends, as well as blanc de blancs, blanc de noirs and rosé wines. Most are brut (with between 6g and 12g/L dosage) and non-vintage, though you can also find extra brut, or sweeter, styles, and vintage-dated wines. Rules stipulate at least nine months ageing on lees in bottle, but most wines will see far longer ageing. The two top tiers of ‘Eminent’ and ‘Grand Eminent’ wines involve even further extended lees ageing.
Burgundy’s still wines enjoy such a premier reputation globally that its sparkling wines unsurprisingly exist in their shadow. But they are worth seeking out. Quality is high, and the value on offer is impressive – these wines occupy a sweet spot price wise between Cava and Prosecco, and Champagne. The diversity on offer means that it’s easy to find the right wine for any occasion, too. Acidity is naturally high in most wines. Blanc de blancs wines will match many seafood or fish dishes perfectly, or work well as an aperitif, while blancs de noirs will pair well with poultry, and rosé with summery desserts.
Nine Crémants de Bourgogne sparkling wines to try:
A recent tasting in London showcased around 20 Crémant de Bourgogne wines. We’ve picked out nine of the best to try this summer.