Friday, June 1, 2012

Cremants are the best value in French sparkling wines .

Behind the French Menu.


A Crémant de Bourgogne, Burgundy.
Photograph courtesy of
Crémants are a group of sparkling wines that come from outside the area of Champagne; however, they are made in the same manner as Champagne. Nevertheless,  the grapes used for these wines are mostly, but not all, are different to those used for Champagne. To confuse us a little more these wines are bottled in Champagne type bottles in at least 12 of France’s wine-producing regions. Apart from knowledgeable Champagne mavens, crémants represent, for the rest of us, the best value in France’s sparkling wines.
A crémant is made by the method Champenoise, the Champagne method, now officially called, for other wines, the method traditional.  The name of the production method was changed by Europe’s bureaucrats; however, the method of producing these sparkling wines did not change. The legal change in the name used in the production method only serves to try to limit the competition and remove from the public’s eye the Champagne connection.
With crémants' generally high quality and low prices, there is no need to save a crémant for a particular occasion; they are good enough and inexpensive enough to be considered whenever any white or rose wine may be the wine of choice.
A flute of crémant rose.
Photograph Denis De Mesmaeker.
If you have chosen a half-day to wander around a French town with no set timetable consider my suggestion for lunch. Buy reasonable amounts of one or two or even three cheeses.  Remember to buy just enough for lunch as I speak from experience and where French cheeses are concerned, I admit to always buying far too much!  Purchase a portion or two of pâté, and then buy a crémant; I suggest a crémant brut, that is a mildly dry wine. All should be available in the nearest supermarket, and for a crémant, like Champagne, no corkscrew is required. All that is required is a knife for your cheese, a couple of plastic plates, plastic forks, and glasses for all the participants and serviettes.  Ask your hotel to put your bottle of crémant in their kitchen’s refrigerator overnight, and in the morning when you set out then buy a fresh baguette. Begin your walk around the town, hopefully on a beautiful day, and then, when you are ready for lunch, find a park or a suitable place to sit down and enjoy the cheese, pâté and baguette while sipping the wine. Sit, sip, enjoy, and watch the world go by; it has much to recommend it.
You can find excellent French wines at home, and that will include crémants.  However, a French supermarket or wine shop will have crémants at prices far cheaper than a wine shop at home or in the duty-free. That is if they are available in the duty-free at all. Buy a non-vintage crémant, that’s a cuvée, and the word cuvée will be on the bottle’s label. Outside of a restaurant, there is no need to pay more than € 12.00 for a bottle of crémant, and most will be much less.  Crémants are truly the best value in French sparkling wines.
The sweetness standards of Champagne, crémants and other sparkling wines are NOT the same as those used for still wines. Do not buy a bottle of any sparkling wine without using those different rules. Remember in the world of crémants, like the world of Champagne, ordinary still wine sweetness classifications do not apply!
Choosing a crémant that suits your taste.
Ultra Brut – This is a very dry Champagne, crémant or other sparkling wine. This is nearly the nearest a sparkling wine will get to a pleasant bone dry. Personally, I think ultra-brut, along with brut, shows the best in French sparkling wines. The same is true with similar sparkling wines from outside France like the Italian Prosecco.
Brut – A dry, wonderful, Champagne or crémant. Not as dry as an ultra brut, but still a very pleasant sparkling wine with under 1.5% sugar. Brut wines are the most popular level of sweetness.
Sec - Dry in a white wine; however, in a sparkling wine note, this is slightly sweet. Do not let this confuse you; if you want a slightly sweet Champagne or crémant then order it sec, dry. That may seem odd but sparkling wines work by different rules to still wines.
Demi-sec or Semi-sec– For regular still wines this translates as semi-dry, but again this will not be true for French sparkling wines. In a Champagne or a crémant, a demi-sec or semi-sec will be a very very sweet Champagne or crémant!  These wines will be as sweet or sweeter than many dessert wines.
Doux- Sweet. In reality, this will be a sickly sweet dessert Champagne or crémant; the sugar will be dripping down your throat!

Á votre santé! - Your health.

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Bryan G Newman

Behind the French Menu 
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