Cole Porter, (and many more after him), sang they ‘get no kick from Champagne’. I think they need to try Crémant. We at Savage Vines are big proponents of Crémant. One of our favourites, (alongside Crémant de Loire), is Crémant D’Alsace.
It’s a wonderful alternative to Champagne. Cheaper, but still deeply complex and delicious. You also get the chance to try a mix of new varieties and styles. The method of production may be the same as Champagne, but their are different rules and regulations when compared to the Champagne region. Maybe you’re bored of Champagne? If that’s even possible. Well, if you want to try a new style of fizz then pick up a bottle of Crémant D’Alsace – we’ve got some great recommendations!
This article will take you on a tour of the Alsace region. We will take a look into some of our top producers of this delicious drink. Then, finally the tastes you can expect and the best food to pair it with.
What is Crémant?
In case you were wondering, let’s start with ‘What is Crémant?’. Think of it as Champagne’s more affordable rival. Champagne, famously, must be made within the Champagne region. It is a sparkling wine made through the bottle fermentation method.
This method, (often referred to as “methode traditionelle”), is where a secondary fermentation of a still base wine occurs in a sealed bottle. This leads to carbonation. Not only this, but the use of lees, (dead yeast cells), in this process imparts the distinct biscuit and fresh bread dough notes you come to know in Champagne.
Crémant follows the exact same process. Indeed, it uses a number of the same grapes as Champagne. Namely, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The only difference is the region. Crémant will tick a lot of the same boxes as Champagne. Yet, each variant will possess its own unique flavour which reflects the terroir, grapes and winemaking practices of that region.
For example, Crémant D’Alsace has a rich and complex character, partly due to the wide variety of grapes that can be used to create it. Crémant D’Alsace can be made from Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Auxerrois and Chardonnay. Alsace only permits the use of Chardonnay in Crémant D’Alsace. It is not used in still wine production in Alsace.
The other key differentiator in Crémant is the region itself. So, let’s look at Alsace and how it makes Crémant D’Alsace the unique drink it is.
The Alsace Region
The Alsace region is like something out of a storybook. The area has passed between ownership of France and Germany over the years. Indeed, it changed hands four times over a 75 year period at the turn of the 20th century. Maybe Presidents and Kaisers were keen to get their hands on the delicious wine this region is known for.
This fact means it has developed an entirely unique architecture. The region is spread out across 199 villages, most of which are centuries old. Perfect, timber houses line the oblique streets, with the backdrop of the Vosges Mountains. They look and feel stuck in time. However, they maintained this aesthetic by choice, as they were perfectly content.
In terms of the wine they produce, white wine is the name of the game. Although Crémant D’Alsace makes up around 20% of the wine production in the region. The primary grapes are Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Riesling and Pinot Gris. Here, low yield vines produce stunning citrus and stone fruit aromas, with rich minerality, acidity and rivers of honey often all to be found. (MacNeil pg.279-292)
Crémant D’Alsace – Producers in Focus
Now you know about Crémant the drink and Alsace the region, it’s time to look into some of the producers combining these two factors into Crémant D’Alsace.
Domaine Aimestentz is a family owned vineyard in Wettolsheim, Alsace. 5th generation winemakers produce stunning organic wine on the 14 hectare farm. Not only this but the Aimestentz vineyard is a historic monument. Certified since 1970, due to it sharing its location with a Roman stopover dating back to the 1st century. This means that this location likely produced some of the first wine in Alsace, as Romans legions introduced vines to the region.
This historic winery has a deep focus on the terroir of the region and uses the rich diversity in soil type. They utilise this to ensure all grapes have the perfect companion, all while imparting complexity and minerality. When these distinct grapes and soil types all find a home in a bottle of Crémant D’Alsace, it truly is something special.
Domaine Haegi is another family-owned vineyard, who make stunning Crémant D’Alsace. Originally bakers, they changed their line of work in 1949 and Domaine Haegi was born. Currently, Daniel Haegi runs the operation. Daniel is a third generation winemaker on this small, yet prestigious, farm.
While Domaine Haegi only produces around 6000 cases of wine a year, what they do produce is exquisite, with a number of their wines winning awards. Both their Crémant and Rose Crémant grow in silt. This allows them to retain greater heat and ripen the grapes. It also adds a degree of smoothness to the wines, while also balancing out the crispy acidity you’d expect with Crémant.
There is a clear trend among a number of the great winemakers in this region. Small, family-owned operations creating a limited supply of excellent wines, which include Crémant D’Alsace. Meet Charles Frey & the Frey family.
Since 1997, they have been committed to organic viticulture. This showcases them as forward thinking and environmentally minded winemakers. Indeed, they did encounter a number of issues early on, but through perseverance they have made it work. These trailblazers, in the world of organic Alsace wine are not one to miss.
Last, but by no means least, on our list of Alsace producers to look out for is Domaine Bauman-Zirgel. Again, family owned and operated for multiple generations, with a history dating back to the 1950s.
Much like the other winemakers on our list, Baumann-Zirgel are certified organic. They are also certified biodynamic and vegan. There are 11 hectares of vineyards, on the hillsides. In these vineyards Baumann-Zirgel has committed themselves to preserving the ecosystem and biodiversity of the area, as well as creating delicious Crémant D’Alsace for us to enjoy!
Tasting Notes & Food Pairings
Crémant Tasting Notes
In terms of what you can expect to taste, there are certain differences between ‘regular’ Crémant D’Alsace and the Rose variety. However, both do possess a number of similarities. Due to use of lees in the wine-making process, Crémant wines possess undeniable flavours of things such as, biscuits, freshly baked bread and brioche. Beyond that, both Crémant and Rose Crémant are incredibly crisp, refreshing and acidic.
Yet, there are definite differences between Crémant and its Rose cousin. Crémant is generally very delicately floral with citrus and stone fruit notes including lemon, lime, peaches and apricots. However, the Rose will possess much more of a red fruit kick. The tartness of raspberry, cherry and cranberry will likely all be present.
Crémant Food Pairings
Now, for the food pairing. What Crémant does excellently in all forms is to cut through incredibly rich and fatty foods. So, in the spirit of the region and Alsatian cuisines, there is one dish that stands out as the best place to start, for a Crémant D’Alsace experience. That is Cordon Bleu.
This is not the cooking school Cordon Bleu, but the dish. To summarise, it’s cheese wrapped in meat, which is then deep-fried. Oily, fatty and delicious. This incredibly rich dish will be the perfect balance, with the acidic Crémant.
Glass of Crémant in hand, with a plate of Cordon Bleu in front of you and you may as well be on the foothills of the Vosges Mountains soaking in the Alsatian countryside. So, for a recipe of this delectable dish, click here.
Crémant is an excellent alternative to Champagne. It’s just as tasty and far more affordable. Next time you’re stocking up on something sparkling for your next celebration, (or your own personal party), you should seriously consider Crémant D’Alsace. We also have listed our top 5 easy sparkling wine cocktails to get your next party rocking.
MacNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible. 2nd ed., Workman Publishing, 2015.
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