Popping the cork on a bottle of bubbly can fill a room with celebratory spirits. As we move into brunch season and springtime celebrations, let’s take a closer look at a Champagne’s lesser-known cousin.
With the same richness and body of Champagne, crémant (pronounced kruh-maant) brings as much life and effervescence as its counterpart—at a fraction of the price. We spoke with Mike Scharff, general manager and wine buyer at Haskell’s in White Bear Lake, to learn more about this sparkling sensation.
What is crémant?
Crémant, in the most basic of explanations, is sparkling French or, more uncommonly, Luxembourg, wine that is produced outside of the Champagne region. These wines are similarly made and of similar quality but at a much more affordable price.
What’s the production process?
The production process term that is shared with Champagne is méthode traditionnelle. This is where secondary fermentation occurs inside the bottle instead of a vat or tank. This is said to give the sparkling wine more texture and nuance that we have come to expect from both Champagne or crémant. This creamy mouth texture is how crémant got its name, which literally translates to “creamy.”
Where is crémant made?
Crémant is produced throughout France in eight designated regions: Alsace, Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Die, Jura, Limoux, Loire and Savoie. The most commonly found regions here on our shelves would be Alsace, Bourgogne or Loire. Little discussed is the one crémant found outside of France in the area of Luxembourg’s Moselle district. Crémant de Luxembourg is also made méthode traditionnelle like France’s counterparts and is considered true crémant.
Does crémant run sweet or dry?
When it comes to sweet or dry, most often crémant comes in brut dryness like most Champagne offerings. However, like Champagne, the crémant can vary in sweetness with extra brut (very dry - super uncommon), brut (dry), to a demi sec (slightly sweet or “off-dry”).
How does crémant differ
We can certainly get into details like atmospheric pressures and dosage requirements, but what truly sets crémant apart from Champagne is the use of more regionally-found grape varietals in addition to chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, which we commonly see in Champagne. We’re talking grapes that many have never even heard of like auxerrois, clairette, mauzac or savagnin, for example. It is because of the wide range of grape varietals that we have these distinct and defined regions throughout France, which can vary from producer to producer.
How does crémant compare to prosecco?
The methode traditionnelle process is also what separates itself from the Italian sparkling wine prosecco as its secondary fermentation is vatted not bottled. Prosecco also uses the glera grape almost exclusively.
Does crémant have the ability to age?
Champagne is renowned for its ability to age gracefully, while most crémants tend to drink better younger.
Optimal temperature for crémant?
Crémant’s optimal temperature is generally agreed to be between 47 to 50 degrees F. Two to three hours in the refrigerator will do the trick.
How about food pairings?
Crémant, like so many other sparkling wines, is such a versatile food wine. Almost anything fruity, oily, fatty or salty is a wonderful complement. We’re talking meats, fish and other goodies from the sea, salads and fried foods. Fruity or sweet desserts paired with a demi-sec crémant are also a good choice. This is a testament that sparkling wines like crémant are not and should not be exclusively enjoyed on celebratory occasions.
Why isn’t crémant as well known?
I think the average consumer is more educated and is becoming increasingly aware of this sparkling gem. Crémant has been asked for by name more and more in our stores each day. Pricing starts mid-teens and up.
A few of your favorite crémants?
A couple of my absolute favorites are crémant de Bourgogne from Louis Bouillot. Bouillot comes in brut blanc or brut rosé. This has a bit more pinot noir in the mix.
Haskell’s The Wine People
1219 Gun Club Road; haskells.com
Haskell’s White Bear Lake