By Celia Strong
Of course, as it happens with numbers, you have to have some degree of accuracy. That’s part of what makes them numbers and not something else, like just ideas. So this week, after we learn what we have to learn, we can get this week’s number. And, yes, that number gets us this week’s wine. So, off we go to France, to the Burgundy region, for some great bubbles.
Hopefully, we all remember the distinction between sparkling wines and Champagne, besides a big price difference! Both of them are wines with bubbles, but Champagne is an AC wine region in northern France where they grow three grape varieties only, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, and make sparkling wines from them within the boundaries of their region. There are laws in France, and Europe, that do not allow wines from other grapes or other regions to be called Champagne. That makes Champagne a type of sparkling wine, but sparkling wines can’t be Champagne. Fortunately, most of the other wine regions of France do produce sparkling wines. From their regions’ grapes. And, usually, in the same second fermentation in-the-bottle method as is used in Champagne. When you travel in France, it is a great opportunity to try the local sparkling wines. Here, we can find several, the ones from Burgundy always being some of the best.
The region of Burgundy is located on the eastern side of France, south and east of Paris, running from north to south, from the town of Chablis to the top of the Rhône Valley. Their main grape varieties, allowed by the local AC laws, are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. So, right away, we can guess their sparkling wines might be pretty good. In Burgundy, their AC law lets (makes) them call their sparkling wines Crémant de Bourgogne. Originally, crémant wines had less pressure, carbonation. The name “crémant” means “creamy,” referring to the softer, creamier texture of these wines. They are still made by a using a second fermentation to create the wines’ bubbles. In the bottle. This second fermentation takes a shorter time, though, than what is used in Champagne. Less time means fewer bubbles. (And, helps to keep the cost of the process down, a bit, and the cost to you for the bottle, as well.)
Historically, there was a long-lasting competition between Champagne and Burgundy way before they were official appellations. And, before Champagne made almost only sparkling wines. King Louis XIV’s doctors first told him he should drink only wines from Champagne. But, producers in Burgundy conspired with the King’s mistress. And, they got a new diagnosis. The King was told he should drink only the wines from Burgundy. Even after Louis died, there was a 100 year or so period when each of these regions called the wines from the other region “unhealthy.”
The appellation, Crémant de Bourgogne, was created in 1975. The wines were made, though, as far back as the 19th century. Many of the best ones were made from what are now rated as Grand Cru vineyards. The appellation covers white and rosé sparkling wines, made with predominantly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. “Bourgogne Mousseux” is another appellation for red sparkling wines. More than 13 million bottles of Crémant de Bourgone are made every year. Sweetness levels can range from Brut to Demi-Sec. White Crémant de Bourgogne wines can be either Blanc de Blancs (white wine from white grapes) or Blanc de Noirs ( white wine from red grapes), or, of course, a blend of both. Plain Crémant. Rosés are mostly Pinot Noir and maybe some Gamay, the red variety that makes Beaujolais from the southern end of the region. Because the Burgundy region is so long, from its north end to the south end, it runs about one hundred seventy-five miles, the terroir that Crémant wines come from can vary greatly. Wines from close to Chablis, in the north, come from a cooler climate and chalkier soils. They are lighter bodied with more delicacy and finesse. Those from further south, like near Lyons, are fuller bodied and heavier.
Moving forward, we can now discuss our winery for this week’s wine. Boisset Family Estates. In 1961, Jean-Claude Boisset founded his negoçiant firm in Burgundy. He was 18 years old. His goal was to make authentic wines with minimal human intervention. And, the winemaker was as involved with the cellar as with the vines. He used native yeasts, never more than 30 percent new oak, and made wines that were concentrated, well-rounded and expressed their individual “terroir” origins. Today, the son, Jean-Charles Boisset, runs the company. (Not that it matters to us for this week’s wine, but the Boisset company has expanded beyond the world of Burgundy. They own DeLoach Vineyards, Raymond Vineyards, Buena Vista Winery and several more California wineries. And, absolutely worth mentioning, Jean-Charles is married to Gina Gallo, granddaughter to Ernest and Julio.). In Burgundy, now, the Boisset operation, under several labels, produces about 10 million bottles of crémant. Which means we can fall in love with this one and still be able to get plenty of it.
As part of his expansion of his father’s company, Jean-Charles started another line of Burgundian wines. These are called JCB by Jean-Charles Boisset. JCB being his father’s initials, not his own. Each one of these wines, about a dozen or more, are named by a number. Each number having a specific significance. Our wine is “No 69.” 1969 was the year Jean-Charles was born. It was also the year men went to the moon. That means No 69 is an expression of freedom, unlimited possibilities, creativity, artistry and refinement. Quite a high bar for a wine to measure up to. But, relax. It does, and then some.
JCB No 69 is a Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé. (The other sparkling wines from JCB have other numbers. See, accuracy.) Made completely from Pinot Noir grapes. Its color comes from the “saignée” method. (Related to the word for “blood,” this method gets color from the skins of the grapes. The color is bled into the juice.) The wine has raspberry notes with red currants. It is dry, crisp and clean and, yet, still gentle in your mouth. The whole point of a crémant. Remember, creamy?
It pairs well with quiche, seafood, salmon. And, most importantly for us, turkey and ham dinners. A perfect match for the holidays. And not just with the dinners. This wine will be lovely all day, or all weekend, long. My first taste (bottle) was with a football game, if that gives you any ideas. There should be a lot of opportunities to drink lots of No 69. For $17.99. Enjoy.