Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! Do you have a go-to choice when you visit the sparkling wine aisle? There are so many options available it can quickly become overwhelming and the price point does not always guarantee an enjoyable sipper. Take the Frizzante Verdejo I tried this week: I love the price point ($12 after tax) but the experience left me disappointed. On the other hand, sometimes we want a quality experience but don’t want to spend a lot of money. This week we are taking a look at a wine that satisfies the thirst for quality bubbly without the Champagne price. Let’s talk about crémant!

Sometimes words carry certain connotations when we think of them; when I hear the word crémant, I think of creamy, foamy textures since the word sounds very close to crème (cream in French). In this case, the word is certainly fitting as the sparkling wine from France known as crémant has a foamy mousse and creamy style. What is crémant and why should you check it out?

Crémant is a traditional-method sparkling wine similar to Champagne but since it is produced outside of the Champagne region, it cannot legally share the same name. There are many regions where crémant is made including the Loire valley, Burgundy and Alsace and each area adds its own character to the style. The Willm organic crémant is from an AOC called Crémant d’Alsace which is located in the Northeast of France. While similar in style to Champagne, crémant is made with different grapes such as Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Auxerrois and Chardonnay. Some wines are made using only Pinot Blanc while many producers will blend with several grapes.   

The wine known as crémant has been made since the 1900’s but only received legal status in 1976. Once legal terms and regulations were created for the style, the quality and standards of production increased tremendously and made crémant a great value. Those that don’t want to pay the higher prices found in Champagne (with entry-level wines starting around $65) should seriously consider trying a crémant or two.

There are many characteristics about crémant which speak to its high level of quality. All the grapes used in production must be handpicked to prevent bruising and premature crushing. Only the first 100 Liters of first-pressed juice (per 150 Kg) are allowed to be used to make the wine and since the area where the grapes are grown are dry and warm, the addition of sugars or “dosage” are often not necessary, meaning there is less intervention in the process. The wine must be made in the traditional-method which means a second fermentation in the bottle. In this production method, wines are left to age on the “lees” or leftover yeast cells. With crémant specifically, the wine must legally age at least 9 months which adds to its creamy, fresh texture and style. Many producers go above and beyond this to create full-bodied, creamy wines.

You will find crémant in many price points and I have seen several between $25 to $60 making it an affordable but high-quality option. Crémant is the 2nd most popular sparkling wine from France after its most popular sparkler, Champagne and for this reason, it is fairly common in most liquor stores. Most quality stores should have at least one or two bottles available for purchase. 

The differences that I have noticed between crémant and Champagne is that Champagne tends to have a toastier flavor (not as much at the entry-level price point) and a fuller body, although this point becomes moot depending on the quality level of the crémant (higher quality wines will definitely have more body) and the quality of the Champagne (a good example is vintage Champagne which has longer aging requirements resulting in thicker, more luxurious wines). For this reason, with a bit of searching you can find crémant that beats Champagne for a lower price. This demonstrates the excellent value of crémant and why you should give it a chance.

A brief note, you will notice the word “Frizzante” on the Cal Y Canto wine; this indicates a lower level of bubbles in the wine. In Italy/Spain, you will often find wines that indicate Frizzante (light bubbles) or Spumante (full bubbles on their sparkling wines. Here are my wine picks of the week!    

Cal Y Canto Verdejo Frizzante: (Product of Spain). Off-dry to medium-dry sparkling white, medium lemon color with hardly any bubbly activity. The nose has medium intensity with delicate scents of peaches, apricots, sweet minerals and rubber ball. The mousse of the carbonation is almost non-existent on the palate and overall, the wine tastes flat and flabby. Nice concentration and intensity of ripe fruits like peaches, pears and apples on the mid-palate which leads into a quick finish of rubbery mineral. Low acidity, low carbonation and the flavor profile is simple. I was expecting more fizz and the wine is definitely out of balance which makes it taste like it should cost less than $10. I would pass on this one unless using it for sangria or a spritzer. Average. $12, 9% ABV

Willm Cremant d’Alsace Organic Brut: (AOC Cremant d’Alsace, France). Dry sparkling white with a pale golden color and very active, medium-sized bubbles. The nose of this Alsatian wine is alluring with toasty biscuit, fresh citrus peels, peaches, chalky gravel/mineral and a hint of floral soapstone. To the taste, the wine is crisp and intense with mouthwatering notes of biscuit/toast, lemon/lime peel, peaches, apricots and frothy, active bubbles which seem to cleanse the palate. Medium-plus acidity adds an invigorating zip which culminates in a long tingling finish of toast, forest mushrooms, limestone/soapstone mineral and balanced bitterness. Concentration is medium so even though the wine is intense, it doesn’t pack a huge punch of fruit. This sparkler is clean, focused and refreshing. Pair with seafood or light mushroom dishes. Very good! $34, 12% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!