By Celia Strong
Sparkling wines are made all around the world, from almost every grape variety. The most famous bubbly, of course, is Champagne, which come only from that region of France, but that’s only one category of sparkling wine. We can find sparkling wines in multiple categories, styles and price ranges to take care of whatever our needs might be.
In the Burgundy region of France, the sparkling wines go under the appellation “Crémant de Bourgogne.” Burgundy has a long history of making sparkling wines. Even 150 years ago, they had a tradition of making some of their greatest, and most expensive, red wines sparkle. In 1827, a million bottles of sparkling red Burgundy were sold. (Needless to say, these had no resemblance to what is labeled sparkling burgundy today.) During the 20th century, sparkling white Burgundies, known then as Crémant, were still produced but not very well-known. Beginning with the 21st century, several producers started paying more attention to their Crémants and pushed for better quality sparkling wines.
The name “crémant” comes from the French word for “creamy” and refers to the creamy foam that forms as the wine is poured. These wines have about half the pounds of air pressure per square inch as Champagne, so they are slightly less bubbly and easier to consume. Crémants are made in white and rosé only, no more reds. The main two varieties of Burgundy — Chardonnay and Pinot Noir — can both be used in its production as well as small amounts of Aligoté, Gamay, and Pinot Blanc. Obviously, the better growing areas for grapes, and the use of Burgundy’s two best varieties, make for better wines. And, not only do Crémants have half the bubbles of Champagne, they are half the price or less. Almost all Crémants from Burgundy are Brut.
Crémants de Bourgogne are perfect for many occasions and meals. Of course, as an apéritif and in sparkling cocktails with a splash of a favorite liqueur or fruit. But they also do well with poultry and seafood — stewed, baked, or fried — as well as with pâtés, cheeses like aged Gouda and cheddar, Gruyère and other Swiss, double and triple cremes like Brie and Delice de Bourgogne and mild blue cheeses. Not to mention cream sauces and stewed fruits. The list could be endless.
Simonnet-Febvre is our first Crémant. This producer is located in Chablis, in the very northern part of the Burgundy region, where superb Chardonnay grapes grow. The soil is limestone and clay. They have made sparkling wines for centuries, using traditional methods and grapes. Today, Simonnet-Febvre is the only producer in Chablis to make a crémant. This wine is 60 percent Chardonnay and 40 percent Pinot Noir. It is a light gold color with fine, long-lasting bubbles. Its foam, the creamy thing it’s named for, is persistent. Fresh and powerful, the aromas and flavors include apples, pears, lemons, quince, floral notes and a hint of toast. For $17.99.
Our second is JJ Vincent Crémant de Bourgogne. This producer is based in the southern part of the Burgundy region, near Pouilly-Fuissé, another source for great Chardonnay grapes, with soils of limestone, clay and pebbles. The grapes are hand-picked, as early as possible, to preserve their minerality and acidity, two important components in a dry sparkling wine. This wine is 100 percent Chardonnay, shown in its freshness and crispness. It is light and clean with floral notes, white fruit aromas and flavors and very fine bubbles. (At the winery, since this is a relatively new wine for them, they counted the beads in their glasses — 1.5 million in thirty minutes. Hopefully they counted in one glass and sipped from another while they did the count!). For $19.99. Enjoy!
Celia Strong works at Billís Liquor & Fine Wines on Ladyís Island.