The holiday season is upon us, and what better way to celebrate than with a bottle of Champagne?
Champagne has long been the go-to wine for celebrations, but it can be pricey. Luckily, there are other French sparkling wines to consider, called crémants, that are also delicious … and easier on the budget.
What is a Crémant?
Like Champagne, a crémant is a wine that goes through a secondary fermentation to create those lovely bubbles. But unlike Champagne, crémants are not restricted to the three grape varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. They can be made from a wide range of grapes, giving you plenty of variety to choose from.
Let’s look at the most popular crémants, the ones easiest to find in your local wine shop.
Crémant de Bourgogne
Burgundy is the home of some of the world’s greatest and most expensive wines, made from the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. These same grapes make it into Burgundy’s reasonably priced sparkling wines, making them the most Champagne-like of the French crémants. They are a nice alternative to Champagne, at a lower price.
Crémant de Limoux
Who invented sparkling wine? Legend says it was a monk in Champagne named Dom Perignon, who first sipped it and proclaimed, “I’m tasting stars!” The good people of Limoux, in France’s Languedoc region, say this is hooey. They claim that it is their ancestors who brought this miracle to the world. Whatever the truth is, Crémant de Limoux has been tickling French palates for centuries. Today it is made primarily from Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, but you can still find “old school” crémant, called Blanquette de Limoux, using the traditional Mauzac grape.
Crémant de Loire
From France’s famous châteaux country, these sparkling wines have long been a favourite of aristocrat and commoner alike. Made from the Chenin Blanc and other grapes, they are often sweeter than those from other parts of France. The Loire Valley makes a lot of these sparkling wines, which means you should be able to find some.
Alsace is in France’s northeast corner, near Germany, and grows a lot of grapes. Many make it into sparkling wines, making Alsace the largest producer of crémant. Pinot Blanc and Riesling are two of the most popular grapes used in these wines, while the rosés are made from Pinot Noir.
The French make other excellent sparklers, though they are hard to find outside of France. These are Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant de Die from southern France (also called Clairette de Die), and Crémant de Jura and Crémant de Savoie from two areas that border Switzerland.
Whatever your budget, you should be able to find a wine that brings sparkle to your holiday celebrations. Santé!