Crémant de Loire – Créme de la Créme of Fizz:
I’m a big fan of Crémant de Loire. Love at first sip, it was the first sparkling wine I ever tasted, on a camping holiday in the Loire Valley when I was about ten. I’ve always found that a good Crémant has plenty of benefits, not only that it is still available at a very reasonable price, but the softer grapes and variety of terroir in the Loire Valley make for a range of wines which are easy to drink and where you can choose from a range to suit all tastes.
While any bottle labelled Champagne must follow specific rules, including ones which govern where the grapes are grown, the traditional method of making Champagne, with a second fermentation in the bottle, is not exclusive to that region in France where the famous fizz comes from.
In fact, it is widely used in the production of sparkling wines. Cava, English Sparkling Wine, Franciacorta and most of the New World sparkling wines are produced using what is sometimes called méthode Champenoise (a term now officially not allowed by the EU) or méthode traditionnelle. The exception that most of us will have tried is Prosecco. The fizz that comes in a bottle of Prosecco is generally from the second fermentation in a large steel tank, method charmat or prosaically ‘tank method’. The result is something with a less yeasty taste as Prosecco doesn’t stay ‘on the lees’ (resting on the yeast). And it’s arguably more of a mass produced product.
Wine-makers in France have made sparkling wine using méthode traditionnelle for years and Crémant de Loire is one of the seven regions in France permitted to produce wine with the label Crémant. It’s highly regulated – the grapes have to come exclusively from Loire Valley Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée zone and are produced using Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay. The grapes must be harvested by hand too. For me, what makes these wines special is that the terroir and grape varieties used also produce some of my favourite still wines. And, the result, when they are turned into sparkling wines, is something that I’ll happily drink as my fizz of preference. With a price tag somewhere between £10 and £15, it’s a totally affordable luxury. So, of course, I was delighted to be offered a couple of bottles of Crémant to review.
One warm summer’s evening we decided to open both bottles, just for the purpose of comparison, you understand…
The first bottle we tried was Prince Alexandre Crémant de Loire, which you’ll find at Waitrose for £12.99
It’s a deliciously creamy dry white sparkling wine based on a blend of three grapes, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc. A subtle and delicate mousse makes this very easy to enjoy as an aperitif. With notes of green fruits and peach, it also paired well with our nut-free pesto coated salmon.
The second wine, a bottle of Abbesse de Loire Crémant de Loire Rosé, is a Cabernet Franc wine, still with that lovely soft mousse but this time a little sweeter and fruitier. I’m really fond of Rosé wine in the summer when it’s just too hot for a red wine, but I want something a little more robust than a white.
As you can see, we continued drinking this with our raspberries and cream – a highly suitable pairing for a wine that had a creamy mousse and was bursting with berry flavours.
You can buy Abbesse de Loire from Laithwaites for around £13.99 a bottle.
If you want to impress your friends with your knowledge of wine rather than with your wallet, Crémant de Loire is an elegant and sophisticated alternative to Champagne. Of course, I’ll still enjoy a bottle of Champagne when I can – but for parties, barbecues and the festive season, Crémant de Loire is an option I take seriously. and drink happily!
To find out more about the wines of the Loire Valley visit www.vinsdeloire.fr