Saturday, June 2, 2012

Clairette de Die AOP; A Sparkling Wine far Older than Champagne.

Behind the French Menu.

Clairette de Die AOP.
Photograph courtesy of Ellen van den Berg.
Clairette de Die AOP –  The oldest sparkling wine in France.
Clairette de Die AOP is far older than champagne.  It is a lightly-sparkling wine produced in the southern department of Drôme in the region of the Rhône-Alps in the Rhone Valley. The local's claims of its 2,000-year-old pedigree may be slightly exaggerated, but, certainly this, pétillant, a lightly sparkling wine,  has been produced here for over 1,000 years. Originally, this wine had, unlike Champagne, had only a single fermentation, however, in 1925 the Champagne style bottle was added, and so was a second fermentation.  

A Clairette de Die Cuvée Impériale.
Photograph courtesy of jamesonf.
Clairette de Die AOP is a light and fruity wine best drunk when it is very young, mostly under two-years of age, and served very cold.  While the traditional Clairette de Die AOP is a demi-sec, a semi-dry wine,  a brut, a dry, version is now available, and both are inexpensive.  In a wine shop in Saint Etienne, a town where an uncle of mine used to live, I saw these wines on sale with prices below twelve Euros per 750cl bottle.  I also saw organic versions of the same wine for similar prices.  In  local, unassuming, but good restaurants, in 2012, you could expect to pay up to fifteen or eighteen Euros for a bottle.

 You will not find the Clairette de Die AOP in the airport duty-free so stock up when you can.

Aging Clairette de Die.
 In honor of this wine's age and unique method of production, it is legally labeled as using the 'Méthode Dioise Ancestrale', the diose ancestral, method. The production method is different from that used in other sparkling wines, including Champagnes and Cremants. The Clairette de Die AOP is unique, not only as a sparkling wine, with 1,000 years of history; it is of part of France's wine heritage.

À Votre Santé.
Photograph courtesy of abby chicken photography.

All French sparkling wines use sweetness descriptions that very different to still wine. To choose a sweetness that meets your preference use the list at the end of my post on Champagnes or Cremants.
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Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
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