Crémant comes into its own

James Lawrence reports on a once-lagging category that is now bubbling away. 

Château de Saumur in the Loire/David Messineo
Château de Saumur in the Loire/David Messineo

There is no French wine category more ambitious and complex than crémant. It is a sparkling wine style which encompasses more diversity than any other European designation: your glass may contain a 100% Riesling sparkling wine, a 50/50 blend of Muscadelle and Sauvignon Blanc, a 100% Chenin Blanc version or a Champagne style.  

Indeed, this single designation includes eight geographical appellations that can use the term, including Crémant de Alsace, de Bordeaux, de Bourgogne, de Loire and de Limoux. More than 500 producers are currently making crémant, producing over 110m bottles every year.

However, unlike Champagne, crémant has not historically boasted a strong presence in global export markets or commanded the same prestige.

According to sparkling wine expert Essi Evellan MW, the ‘secret’ of putting bubbles into wine leaked out from Champagne into other French wine regions in the early 19th century. Evellan MW explains that, “The growth of crémant appellations is part of a deal struck by the Champagne industry, whereby other French sparkling wines could gain exclusive use of the crémant term for their appellations, in return for the entire (then) EC wine community dropping the term ‘Méthode Champenoise’.” Or in other words, crémant was a political project rather than a quality-led one.

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