France is famous for the world’s best sparkling wine: Champagne. But besides this extraordinary beverage, the French produce many more great sparkling wines. One of them is Crémant.
What Is Crémant?
Crémant is a type of sparkling wine from France that is either white or rosé and either dry or off-dry. As it undergoes a similar production process as Champagne, including bottle fermentation, it’s typically a high-quality yet affordable sparkler.
How Is Crémant Different from Champagne?
Although both sparkling wines undergo very similar production processes, there are some important differences. Historically, the term Crémant was used to label semi-sparkling wines produced in the Champagne region. In contrast, wines labeled as Champagne always were full-sparkling.
Since wine laws changed in 1985, Champenoise vintners can’t use the term Crémant anymore. Nowadays, it’s a protected name with AOC status, the highest quality label for French wines. Only sparklers that undergo the “Traditional Method”, which includes bottle fermentation, can carry it.
The main differences between Champagne and Crémant are:
- Champagne wines come from the Champagne region, while Crémant wines come from one of eight French regions outside of Champagne.
- Champagne can be made from only seven varietals. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier grapes are the most important. As we will discuss in detail later, Crémant vintners have other options.
- Champagne is typically more expensive.
More Details on Champagne: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO CHAMPAGNE SPARKLING WINES
How Is Crémant Different from Prosecco?
Prosecco is another well-known sparkling wine. But the differences between Crémant and Prosecco are more significant than between Crémant and Champagne:
- Crémant wines come from France (although you might discover some exceptions). All Prosecco wines come from two regions in Italy: Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Veneto.
- While French vintners use bottle fermentation, the second fermentation phase of Prosecco takes place in steel tanks. This approach is called “the Charmat Method” or “the Italian Method”.
- Most Crémant is dry and yeasty. Prosecco tends to feature a subtle sweetness with more intense fruity and floral aromas.
How Is Crémant Different from Cava?
Cava is a distinct type of sparkling wine, and it’s high quality because it’s made with the “Traditional Method”. However, there are some differences between the two:
- As said, Crémant is from France. Cava comes from Catalonia in Spain. Most wines are produced in a subregion called Penèdes.
- The grapes that Crémant vintners may use differ based on local wine laws. For Cava, winemakers proceed primarily four traditional Spanish varieties: Macabeu, Xarel·lo, Parellada, and Subirat.
More Details on Cava: CAVA – PREMIUM SPARKLING WINE FROM SPAIN
Where Does Crémant Come From?
Winemakers in eight different French wine regions produce Crémant wines. The complete name of the sparkling wine gives away its home region. For example, Crémant d’Alsace comes from the Alsace region in the Eastern part of the country. The eight regions are:
- Bourgogne (Burgundy)
Vineyards in Keyserberg in the Alsace Region, France
What Is Crémant Made From?
Vintners can make Crémant sparkling wines from various grapes. As they have to follow regional production rules, they are limited in their choice and have to focus on varieties that are characteristic of their home region:
- Alsace: Auxerrois, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling
- Bordeaux: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Malbec, Merlot, Muscadelle, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon
- Bourgogne: Aligoté, Chardonnay, Gamay, Melon de Bourgogne, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Sacy
- Die: Aligoté, Clairette, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains
- Jura: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Poulsard, Savagnin, Pinot Gris, Poulsard, Trousseau
- Loire: Arbois, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Grolleau, Grolleau Gris, Pinot Noir, Pineau d’Aunis
- Limoux: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Mauzac, Pinot Noir
- Savoie: Aligoté, Altesse, Chardonnay, Chasselas, Jacquère
How Is Crémant Made?
The production process is similar to the process of making Champagne. After harvesting and pressing the grapes, vintners let their juice ferment to produce a still base wine. Typically, this base wine is highly acidic. In most cases, it’s a blend of wines from different grape varieties and sometimes even from different vineyards.
The next step in the process is the second fermentation. It takes place in bottles and is called “the Traditional Method”. The vintners fill the still base wine into bottles and add a mix of wine, sugar, and yeast to restart fermentation. Because they seal the bottles, the CO2 produced during the fermentation can’t escape. Instead, it forms the delicate bubbles that sparkling wine lovers admire.
More Details on Sparkling Wine Production: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO CHAMPAGNE SPARKLING WINES
Even after the fermentation ends and the yeast cells die, the sparkling wine ages further in the bottle. This “on the lees”-aging can take up to three years, depending on the regional production rules. During that time, the wine develops more body as well as additional aromas.
Before selling the wine, vintners have to remove the dead yeast cells. Thus, they riddle the bottles with the help of a device called “riddler”. This special bottle rack moves the bottle daily to move the yeast into the bottleneck slowly. Then, the winemakers freeze the bottleneck, including the yeast cells inside, and remove the cork. The pressure of the CO2 inside the bottle forces the frozen yeast out.
After compensating for the wine lost during the yeast removal, the sparkling wine is ready for sale.
How Does Crémant Taste?
Most Crémant wines are dry, high in acidity, light- to medium-bodied, and typically feature yeasty aromas from bottle fermentation. Depending on their home region and the local production rules, they can have quite versatile additional aromas. For example, Crémant de Loire is famous for its delicious flavors of lemon, pear, and honey.
Even within one region, styles can differ significantly. In the Northern part of the Burgundy region, you can find crisp and fresh styles, while Southern Burgundy is home to riper and bolder Crémant wines.
Rosé styles often feature delicious aromas of red fruits such as strawberries. Besides, expect crisp acidity and subtle yeasty notes.
How to Serve Crémant?
Like Champagne or other precious sparkling wines, Crémant is a perfect beverage for celebrations. No matter if you toast an anniversary, a newlywed couple, or a successful business deal, the French sparkler is a great choice. But of course, you can also combine it with food (more details on food pairings below). In any case, you should pick the proper glassware and make sure the wine has the optimal serving temperature.
Which is the Best Glass for Crémant Wines?
The best glass to serve Crémant is a Champagne flute. This tall, slim glass helps preserve the sparkler’s bubble for as long as possible, so it won’t go flat. Tulip-shaped sparkling wine glasses work as well.
More Details on Wine Glasses: WINE GLASSES EXPLAINED – THE GLASSWARE GUIDE
Which Is the Best Serving Temperature for Crémant?
When serving it, make sure that it is chilled. It’s best between 43 and 46°F (6-8°C). To bring it to this temperature, put it into your regular refrigerator or an ice bucket for about 30 minutes before opening the bottle.
Should You Decant Crémant?
No, you shouldn’t decant Crémant wines. Like most sparkling wines, they don’t benefit significantly from contact with oxygen. Furthermore, leaving them in a decanter would cause the delicate bubbles to disappear rapidly, making the wine taste flat and dull.
How to Store Crémant?
Treat your Crémant bottles like you would treat any table or sparkling wine: Find a dark, cool place, preferably in your basements, for it. Shield the bottle from sunlight, vibrating devices like air conditioning, and aggressively smelling chemicals such as cleaning agents, wall paint, or heating oil.
In any case, a wine fridge is optimal to store a good bottle of Crémant.
More Details on Wine Fridges: THE ULTIMATE WINE FRIDGE GUIDE
Can Crémant Go Bad?
Yes, like all sparkling wines, Crémant can go bad. Especially when you expose it to heat, sunlight, or vibrations, you increase the chance it goes off. If it has no bubbles and tastes flat or has unpleasant vinegar-like aromas, it’s most likely not drinkable anymore.
How Long Does Crémant Last When Open?
After opening a bottle of Crémant, you should consume it within 2 to 3 days maximum. Make sure to reseal the bottle with either the original cork or a reusable bottle stopper. Then, put it into your fridge.
Can You Age Crémant Wines?
Most Crémant wines are not made for aging. They won’t get perceivably better if you store them for years. Thus, you better consume them within one to two years after buying them.
Crémant Food Pairing
Crémant wines are surprisingly food-friendly. Here are some recommendations :
- The French sparklers are delicious with many light vegetarian meals, for example, vegetable soups featuring pumpkin, squash, or eggplant. Salads with balsamic vinaigrette are good pairings, too.
- Especially wines from the Loire Valley or from Limoux go very well with seafood such as grilled salmon, shrimps, lobster, or oysters.
- Wines from Burgundy or Alsace fantastically match fried dishes, including calamari, but also chicken. In particular spicy meals are proper matches because the wines’ bubbles help clean the palate and reduce the heat.
- Finally, consider combining your sparkling wine with creamy cheeses. Both cow and goat milk cheeses are fine.
More Cheese and Wine Pairings: WINE AND CHEESE – 20 GREAT PAIRINGS FOR YOUR PARTY
Crémant Shopping Tips
We have already discussed that Crémant is a protected label in France. So when you come across a French sparkling wine carrying it, you can be sure that it is a high-quality bottle. However, be aware that some sparklers from other European countries may be labeled similarly, in particular, if French is an official language there. These countries includes Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland.
For an entry-level French Crémant, you have to pay between 15 and 25 USD per bottle of 750ml. Better styles can cost up to 40 USD. Here are some recommendations:
- 2018 Barmes Buecher Crémant d’Alsace
- Bailly Lapierre Crémant de Bourgogne Reserve Brut
- Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé
If you’re a sparkling wine lover, but Champagne scares you off because of its price tag, then Crémant is an excellent alternative for you. It’s of high quality with delicate bubbles, matches many foods, and is much more affordable. So when looking for a great French sparkler, consider buying a bottle of Crémant.