Champagne and Crémant wines share a common thread – both are sparkling wines produced in France using the traditional method, a meticulous process that lends them their effervescence and character. However, there are distinct differences and unique qualities that set them apart.
Champagne holds a revered place in the world of sparkling wine, originating from the eponymous region in northeastern France. The appellation is fiercely protected, and only sparkling wines produced in the Champagne region can carry the prestigious name. This exclusivity is strictly regulated to ensure the highest quality standards and uphold the reputation of Champagne.
Crémant wines, on the other hand, are produced in various regions across France, each with its own unique characteristics and grape varieties. Some of the most well-known Crémant appellations include Crémant d'Alsace, Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Loire, and Crémant de Limoux. While they share the traditional method of production with Champagne, the grape varieties used can vary widely, with Crémant producers utilizing regional grapes to create their signature sparkling wines.
Both Champagne and Crémant wines undergo the traditional method, also known as méthode champenoise, which involves a primary fermentation followed by a secondary fermentation in the bottle. This process contributes to the development of fine bubbles, complex flavors, and delicate aromas that are hallmarks of these sparkling wines. However, there are some distinctions in the aging process and legal requirements, such as minimum aging periods on the lees, which differ between Champagne and Crémant.
The Crémant de Bourgogne appellation is located in the Burgundy region of eastern France, known for its diverse terroir and cool, continental climate. The vineyards are scattered across the region, with varied soil types and elevations contributing to the unique qualities of the wines produced. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the primary grape varieties used in Crémant de Bourgogne, with smaller proportions of Gamay and Aligoté also permitted.
Viticulture Practices and Harvest:
Vines are pruned to manage yields and promote healthy grape development. Harvesting typically takes place in late August to September, with Crémant regulations requiring hand-harvesting to ensure the quality of the grapes.
Grape Varieties and Key Characteristics:
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the dominant grape varieties in Crémant de Bourgogne, imparting their classic fruit flavors and structure to the wines. Gamay and Aligoté may also be used to add regional character and complexity.
Grapes are gently pressed to obtain high-quality juice with minimal phenolics. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir may be blended or vinified separately, with the option for rosé production through short maceration or blending. Chaptalization is allowed, but the use of oak is uncommon in the production of Crémant de Bourgogne.
Maturation and Bottling:
Crémant de Bourgogne is produced using the traditional method, with a second fermentation taking place in the bottle. The wines must age for at least 9 months on the lees, although many producers choose to extend this period to develop more complex flavors and a richer texture. The majority of Crémant de Bourgogne is bottled as Brut, with dosage levels ranging from 8-10 g/l.
Style and Quality:
Crémant de Bourgogne wines typically exhibit medium-plus acidity, with medium intensity flavors of citrus, green apple, and pear, complemented by notes of brioche, toast, and almond. The wines are generally of good to very good quality, offering a more affordable alternative to Champagne without sacrificing elegance or complexity.
Marketing and Business Considerations:
Crémant de Bourgogne is produced by a mix of small growers, cooperatives, and established Burgundy domaines. The appellation has experienced growth in recent years as consumers seek quality sparkling wines at more accessible price points. Notable producers in the region include Louis Bouillot, Domaine Paul Chollet, and Cave de Lugny.
Appearance: The Crémant de Bourgogne presents a pale gold color with a consistent, fine bead of bubbles.
Nose: On the nose, the wine offers medium intensity aromas of green apple, lemon zest, and ripe pear, complemented by subtle notes of toasted brioche, almond, and a hint of white flowers.
Palate: The palate is dry with medium-plus acidity and a medium body. The delicate mousse reveals flavors of crisp citrus fruits, green apple, and pear, accompanied by nuances of biscuit, toast, and a touch of almond. The wine has a medium+ finish with a refreshing, mineral-driven aftertaste.
Conclusion: This Crémant de Bourgogne is a very good example of Burgundy sparkling wine, showcasing the region's expression and the added complexity derived from the traditional method. The medium-plus acidity, vibrant fruit flavors, and delicate autolytic notes are well integrated, offering a crisp, refreshing wine with balance. The autolytic notes of toast, brioche, and almond contribute to both its complexity and elegance. The wine's precise balance and medium-plus finish are pleasant, but it falls short of the best examples. The medium-plus intensity on the nose and palate elevate this wine to very good, as the aromas express clarity throughout.