Despite being better known for its still whites and reds, Bourgogne has in fact a long-standing history of sparkling wine production, dating back to the early 1800s with Napoléon III and Empress Eugénie among the first to taste the delights of the region’s effervescent nectar.
Until as late as 1975, when Crémant de Bourgogne achieved official designated appellation status – to complement Bourgogne Mousseux, the title for sparkling red wines – grapes were sourced from the most prestigious Burgundian Grands Crus. Even today there isn’t a single village in the region that doesn’t produce grapes destined for a bottle of Crémant de Bourgogne, giving the category a remarkable diversity of styles.
With the introduction of the appellation, production methods and stylistic requirements were more strictly defined. These stipulated that only white and rosé styles qualify and that production must follow the ‘traditional’ or ‘classic’ method, meaning that secondary fermentation, to produce the bubbles, happens inside the bottles in which the wines are sold. Crémants de Bourgogne may be labelled as Blanc de Blancs (if made exclusively from white grapes) or Blanc de Noirs (if only the juice of black- skinned grapes is used). Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the only two primary grapes and must comprise at least 30% of the blend – most wines are, however, made either exclusively or mostly from these two varieties. It is possible to find some Crémants which make use of secondary grapes including Aligoté and Gamay (a maximum of 20%), such as Louis Picamelot’s Les Terroirs, listed below. And although two others are permitted – Melon de Bourgogne and Sacy – they are rarely seen in blends.
The character of Crémant de Bourgogne of course depends on the final blend as well as on vineyard location, which gives them wonderfully marked regional identities. Wines made from the chalky subsoils of the Joigny district in the north are typically tauter and leaner than the more generous, round offerings of the granitic soils of the south. On the other hand, the limestone and marls of the côtes (slopes) on which most of the wines in the region are grown offer minerality, tension and power.
Blanc de Blancs tend to be perfumed with citrus fruit nuances developing more stone fruit and toasty brioche notes as they age. These generally exhibit freshness and high acidity, working perfectly as an accompaniment to shellfish. Blanc de Noirs express aromas of berry fruit when youthful, with age adding dried fruit, honey and spiced notes. These often have more structure and body, pairing excellently with white
meat. The rosé style is usually delicate and refined with floral and summer berry aspects, a smooth texture and lingering aftertaste which often matches well with fruit-based desserts.
With such diversity of style, as well as non-vintage and vintage variations, the category offers something for everyone. Above all, these wines are fresh and vibrant, with attractive aromatics and bright flavours. And also being relatively low alcohol makes them particularly versatile and enjoyable wines to serve on their own or with food.
Six Crémants de Bourgogne to try:
Louis Bouillot, Les Trois Saints, Blanc de Blancs, Extra-Brut, Crémant de Bourgogne 2012
Floral reflections on the nose with hints of grapefruit, wild honey, toast and lemon cream. This 100% Chardonnay extra brut from the acclaimed 2012 vintage is taught and well defined. Focus and precision give lift and depth supported by tangy lemon juice, vanilla, orange zest and mouthwatering green apple flavours. Fresh and still so vibrant despite its age, but with noticeable depth and structure from the 48 months ageing on lees – more than double the minimum requirement. Enjoy with chicken or pork dishes to compliment the high acidity.
Drink 2022-2026 Alc 12%
Louis Picamelot, Les Terroirs, Brut, Crémant de Bourgogne 2019
A blend of 43% Chardonnay, 32% Pinot Noir, 21% Aligoté and 4% Gamay, this 2019 vintage crémant, disgorged in December 2021, has a creamy, buttery, caramel and lemon patisserie nose. Vibrant yet elegant palate with hints of lemongrass, lime juice, peach flesh and apricot fruit underscoring the fine bubbles. Nice detail and softness yet with structure and body to be taken seriously. Perfectly weighted with a long finish. Have with fish dishes or creamy pasta.
Drink 2022-2027 Alc 13%
Bailly-Lapierre, Vive-la-Joie, Brut, Crémant de Bourgogne 2013
A subtle and welcoming lemon and hazelnut- caramel tart element to the nose. This 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay blend is full of life with mouthwatering citrus and exotic fruit combining lemon, satsuma and grapefruit with peach and pineapple giving a lovely push/ pull of bright acidity and depth of fruit flavour. The focus is definitely on the lifted citrus element – a fun and playful sparkling with harmony and style. Toasted edges yet still displaying extremely youthful finesse.
Drink 2022-2028 Alc 12%
Vitteaut Alberti, Cuvée Agnès, Brut, Crémant de Bourgogne
Fresh and expressive nose, full of white stone fruit and crisp green apple nuances. Fine bubbles effervesce straight away giving a smooth and gentle liveliness on the palate. Sweet peach and crunchy pear flavours abounde alongside soft flecks of orange and lemon peel, giving a subtle bitter edge and nuance to the fruit profile. Made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, this is a lovely, light-bodied and easy-to-drink style. Perfect as an apéritif. Great value too.
Drink 2022-2025 Alc 12%
Sainchargny, N° Quatre-Vingt-Deux, Blanc de Noirs, Brut, Crémant de Bourgogne
Bright and energetic on the palate, this Blanc de Noirs – a blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Gamay – is delicately framed but gives a mouthful of fruity and chiselled bubbles full of zingy lemon and lime. Green apple edges navigate between power and finesse. This has such a delicious citrus tang to it, making it a perfect companion for shellfish.
Drink 2022-2025 Alc 11.5%
Veuve Ambal, Grande Cuvée, Brut, Crémant de Bourgogne
A gorgeous salmon pink colour in the glass with strawberry, cherry and raspberry nuances on the palate. So juicy yet also with an elegant creaminess giving a rounder mouthful. Layers of gently sweet red berry fruit balanced by softly mouthwatering acidity. A crowd-pleasing rosé with purity. Perfect for summer parties and for pairing with everything from fish to white meat dishes.
Drink 2022-2024 Alc 12%