Wines with Bubbles

Cremants de Loire

By: - Dec 24, 2014

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 “The Wonderful Sparkling Wines of the Loire Valley”

The invitation arrived and in big, bold letters , it read, you are invited to a tasting of ‘The Wonderful Sparkling Wines of the Loire Valley’.

Not only do I have a love affair with the wines of the Loire Valley, but, a bigger love affair with the sparkling wines, known as “Fines Bulles”(small bubbles).

To truly understand the Loire Valley, we must step back in history…a time when poets, writers and artists shared France’s ‘Land of Enchantment’, where the countryside is dotted with a pastoral landscape of gentle, rolling hills, flowers the color of the rainbow and vineyard’s producing quality wines. We are in France’s ‘Jarden de Eden’ (Garden of Eden), a region unchanged for centuries.

The Loire Valley and its renowned beauty is a kaleidoscope of cobblestone streets, gabled houses, gothic churches, renaissance gardens, medieval architecture and magnificent chateaux’s.

Loire Valley’s storybook setting is home to some of the world’s most revered wines, all with a bit of history in each drop.

In fact, the Loire Valley is home to the second largest sparkling wine region in France. It is home to France’s largest white wine producing region and is the third largest AOC in France.

Much of the Loire Valley has been designated as a World Heritage area by UNESCO. The Loire Valley begins in central France and ends at the Atlantic Ocean. The Loire River is the largest in France at 630 miles long.

Chenin Blanc is the flagship grape for the middle Loire Valley and the Cremants de Loire (Saumur, Anjou, Vouvray & Touraine). Chenin Blanc originated in the Anjou wine region in the 9th century. The varietal buds early and ripens late.

If Chenin Blanc is planted in sandy soil, a lighter, faster maturing wine is produced. If planted in limestone based soil, a more acidic wine develops. The versatility of the grape allows vineyards to produce sparkling, sweet and dry wines.

Cremants from Samur tend to be dry. From Anjou, the sparklers are most often off-dry. Trademarks associated with Chenin Blanc are honeysuckle, quince, honeydew, cantaloupe, grass, hay, iodine, flint, vanilla and oak. Look for primary fruit aromas of peach, apples, quince and pears followed by secondary aromas of toasted almonds, clotted cream, marzipan and buttermilk. On the palate, a nutty, floral, honey coats the mouth. Add acidity and minerality to the picture and you have complex Cremants deLoire.

Cremants are a passion of mine. They are produced using the ‘traditional method’ as is Champagne. What that means in simple terms is that the aging and second fermentation takes place in the bottle. Similar to laws governing Champagne, the second fermentation of Fine Bulles’ must be a minimum of nine months in the bottle. This is where the magic takes place.

The Cremants de Loire, for whatever reason price themselves at a ridiculously low price point. Compared to Champagne, which retails from $40 upwards, Cremant de Loire prices itself normally at $20 or under for a 750ml bottle. In fact, most bottles that I drink are in the $15 range. Basically, you are getting a big bang for your buck.

The wine world has become overly competitive, as of late. Consumers, like importers, are looking for quality and value.

With the Cremants de Loire, what you find in each bottle is quality and value at a substantial savings for sparklers using the ‘traditional method’.

Remember, Prosecco does not have a second fermentation and is bottled and on the shelf within fourteen days. That is the reason the price point looks like a bargain.

Contrast that to Cremant de Loire, with its second fermentation in the bottle for nine months or more and you will see why the quality far surpasses equally priced Proseccos. Of course up to 18 months on lees doesn’t hurt.

Unfortunately, Cremants de Loire is not as easy to find in the Berkshires and beyond as it should be. I have numerous favorites and prefer to share a large list with you to make it easier to find.

My favorites include:

Chateau de Breze *Cremant de Loire NV)
Cave des Producteres de Vouvray C. Greffe (Cuvee Excellence Vouvray Brut, NV)
Domaine du Vieux Pressoir (Saumur Brut, NV)
Chateau de L’Aulee (Intense Brut, Touraine Brut, NV)
Domaine Sylvan Gaudron (Vouvray Brut 2011)
Thierry Germain & Michael Chevre (Bulles de Roches, Saumur Mousseux NV)
Caves Louis de Grenelle (Chevalier de Grenelle, Saumur Mousseux NV)
Gratien & Meyer (Cuvee Flamme, Cremant de Loire Brut, NV)
Catherine et Pierre Braton (La Dilettante Vouvray Petillant, NV)
Deligeroy (Cremant de Loire Brut Rose, NV)
Jean-Michael Gautier (Touraine Rose Brut, NV)
Monmousseau (Cuvee JM Brut, Touraine Brut, NV)

New Year's is around the corner. Why not visit Nejaime's, Spirited or any of the local wine merchants and purchase a bottle of Cremant de Loire to welcome in the New Year?

Philip S. Kampe