And even if you know about Crémant, pronounced “CRAY-mon”, Bordeaux’s version isn’t that well known, in fact probably the least known of all Crémant. It’s a little known sparkling wine from the land of big reds.
Why is that?
First, Crémant is a type of French sparkling wine made throughout France in the same traditional method as Champagne. The difference is the grape varieties used, which vary by appellation. The commonality is hand-harvesting, dosage limits, and nine months juice aging on lees.
Eight designated appellations produce Crémant: Alsace, Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Die, Jura, Limoux, Loire and Savoie. Crémant D’Alsace makes the largest proportion, Bordeaux the smallest.
“The word crémant was once used in the Champagne region to refer to sparkling wines made at lower pressures than Champagne. These provided not a fizzy feel in the mouth as much as one that is creamy. Today that meaning has vanished; the word now refers to sparkling wines produced outside of Champagne.” Tom Mullen, VinoVoices
Now that you know Crémant basics, let’s talk details.
This is my first of two Bordeaux sparkling wine articles during month with the French #Winophiles group of wine writers. Check back for other group articles Saturday, March 21st. Pinny Tam shares details in her article here.
Budget Friendly Bubbles
The Crémant de Bordeaux appellation became official in 1990, although sparkling wines have a hundred year history in the area. It relies on the same grapes used to make Bordeaux still wines, namely Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle for white and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec for red. A small amount, about 1.3 percent, of wine made in Bordeaux is Crémant.
Production is slowly increasing and in fact, the Crémant de Bordeaux AOP played a historic part in the bountiful 2018 harvest: 68,936 hectoliters of juice. This is an increase of sixteen percent in volume. That same year also saw a nineteen percent increase in Crémant sales. Finally, it saw twenty percent Crémant exports. Overall, sales are on the rise.
The average price of a bottle in the France today is just under 6€. It’s definitely a budget friendly, wine!
Why Are We Not Hearing More About Bordeaux Crémant?
Today very few articles talk about this sparkler. Over-shadowed by other appellations making Crémant and the popular Bordeaux red wine, it’s hard to stand out. Names like Château Haut-Brion and Château Margaux squash names like Château Lateyron and Château Piote. Even Saint-Emilion’s historic Les Cordeliers gets passed by.
And yet many wineries in Bordeaux are making fabulous bubbles… definitely budget-friendly alternatives to Champagne.
Is it a lack of marketing by the CIVB (Le Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux) and other Bordeaux entities supporting wineries? Perhaps the organizations don’t feel the cost and energy needed to increase category visibility with consumers is worth it.
CIVB list the Crémant appellation on their website, but you need to look under Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur to find it, something most people won’t know. On the upside, search word “Crémant” on their webpage populates a variety of articles. Their OEnoBordeaux app (a great source for overall information on Bordeaux wine) touches the topic lightly.
And Planète Bordeaux, the U.S. marketing program of the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur AOPs Winemakers’ Association, they represent all wines produced in the regional appellations and hold various promotional events in France and the States. Crémant information is on their website too… and a bit of digging is necessary but great information once you find it.
Meanwhile, my question stands.
Why don’t more people know about Crémant de Bordeaux?
Another point to note deals with Bordeaux in the wine world. It’s prominently a red wine culture whereas other regions producing Crémant have a visible white wine tradition: Riesling and Gewurztraminer in Alsace, Chardonnay in Bourgogne, Chardonnay and Savagnin in Jura.
Let’s face it, the money is in the red when it comes to Bordeaux.
Additionally, the appellation is thirty years old yet still considered young. It took years for white Bordeaux wine to become a valid offering. Years later, quantities remain small (9%) and Crémant is smaller still (1%). However, there remains a high demand for sparkling wine with consumers today.
My advise to wine drinkers who like Champagne and sparkling wine? Take a bottle of Crémant de Bordeaux to your next gathering. Wrap it in foil, tell everyone it’s a sparkling wine from somewhere in the world and see what they guess.
As with Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, and other sparkling wines, a variety of styles exist depending on grape variety and winemaker preference. Some are crisper and fresher styles. Others have longer lees aging (aging on the dead yeast cells) giving a light toasty, yeasty, more complex character to the wine, and yet these can still be fresh. A style for everyone.
There are 264 wineries in Bordeaux producing super Crémant at an affordable price. And given the quality, this just might be the next sparkling wine to hit the big stage.
Here are a variety of producers for pondering. Most are available in the U.S. market.
Smaller to Medium:
Château Lateyron – Fourth Generation Corinne (winemaker) and her brother (Lionel) are running this organic Château. My favorite in their line up is Paulian.
Les Cordeliers – Historic Saint-Emilion producer. Don’t miss visiting the 14th century Cloister!
Vignoble Boudon – Since 1963, now making wine organically.
Château de Bel – Producing wine in Bordeaux since 2003, practicing biodynamic agriculture.
Château de Piote – Located north and west of Saint-Emilion, Virginie Aubrion and her sons are making wine here since 1988, biodynamic since 2012.
Château Sicot – Producing wine since the early seventies, organic.
Celene Bordeaux – Located in Entre-Deux-Mers, they offer a range of Crémant under the Celene and Ballarin labels. The Celene brand is a smart branding strategy!
Louis Vallon – A Cooperative winery, one of the largest, producing one third of Bordeaux Crémant
Jaillance – A cooperative winery who makes several Crémant AOP and sparkling wines. They own the Les Cordeliers brand located in the historic cloister in Saint-Emilion. Worth a visit!
Maison Remy Breque – Managed by the fourth generation of the family, an organic producer located between Bourg and Blaye in the Côtes de Bordeaux. The cellars were where the stone was quarried for building the city of Bordeaux.
Did You Know…
- Crémant has lower pressure (3.6 to 4.0 atmospheres) than champagne (typically 5.0 to 6.0 atm).
- In 1994 a deal was struck between the CIVC (governing body for Champagne) and the Crémant AOC bodies that restricted use of the term “crémant” to wines from a Crémant AOC region. In return, the Crémant AOC bodies agreed not to use the term “méthode champenoise” on their wines. Today, “crémant” refers only to the name of the wine region from which a wine originates, and not to the pressure level at all.
- Crémant means creamy, appropriate given the slight creamy feel of some sparkling wines. It is the word used to refer to sparkling wines made in the traditional Champagne method in France outside of Champagne.