Cut your Champagne bill in half — try Cremant – the ‘other’ French bubbly

Wine — By KF Louis on October 9, 2012 at 4:56 am

My first experience with sparkling wine was lackluster:  It was a $4 bottle of Cook’s on New Year’s Eve with some friends, and none of us knew anything about wine.  But as with most twentysomethings, the bottle disappeared rather quickly, with very little interest, and it was back to the 24 pack.

Needless to day, I didn’t get the ‘it.’

Five years later, I was a young professional in Seattle and out to dinner with a classy friend who was visiting for the weekend.  She insisted on ordering a bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate our time together.  And I sat there– completely skeptical, practically broke and getting ready to fork out $50 (now $90-100) on a bottle of the famous  Veuve Clicquot.  I kept thinking: “Is she out of her mind?”

What came next was a total surprise. I finally got ‘it.’  Crisp, clean and with the slightest effervescence, that first taste did not roll across my tongue—it danced.  It was so different from the big red wines I’d been enamored with, but each sip kept me wanting more.

Now, PLEASE, don’t get me wrong.  that first Veuve Clicquot was a transformative experience.  But I’m not sure it was $50 worth of good.  In my opinion, well-known, entry-level $40+ Champagnes such as Veuve Clicquot, Pierre Jouet and Roederer are almost double what they should be priced.  And the good news is, there are literally dozens of great producers of Cremant that produce great bubbles for half the price.

Cremant?!—In layman’s terms, please…

Cremants, are sparkling wines produced anywhere in France besides the Champagne region, but made in the same Champagne method and usually the same varietals (just like most bubbly in the U.S., which can never be called Champagne). Mark Middlebrook of eHow does an excellent job in his video segment, Cremant’s Grape Varieties, of introducing what these sparkling wines are and gives an explanation of a few different Cremants on the market.

Which wines should you try first?

Denois Brut

Drum-roll please…

Jean-Louis Denois Brut “Tradition” ($16)

This is the one that beats the Veuve Clicquot yellow label in my casual blind tastings and the one I served at my wedding. The guests were uniformly pleased. “JLD” has a brut style, with flavors of nuts and berries, vanilla, yeast and toast.

Cremant de Bourgogne Rosé, Perle d’Aurore, Louis Bouillot ($14)

A nice example of a rosé here. Blackcurrant and strawberry notes. This is a huge crowd pleaser, and I have even ordered it for large events full of snooty wine drinkers.  Everyone Loves it.

Bouillot

J. Laurens Brut Cremant de Limoux ($13)

Light and crisp, this sparkling wine has a nose of yeast and green apple. It’s also got flavors that taste like rocks and pears too. Quite different than the Denois, but just as likeable.

Enjoy.

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