It’s about time that sparkling wines broke out of the box; all too often we miss out on wonderful regional specialities as they don’t get to reach our shores. Champagne, glorious though it may be, is only one region in France that produces sparkling wine. There are over 20 others that we simply just don’t get to hear about and one in particular is a pretty well kept secret . . .
If you are looking for a shortcut to a source of super sparklers that won’t break the bank you’ll be surprised that Bordeaux has more than a few under wraps. We all know that Bordeaux is a premium source of high quality wine and has top class and talented wine makers at every turn. But what is not common knowledge is that Bordeaux has a long tradition of making its own sparkling wine.
Bordeaux’s sparkling wine is made by wine makers equally as talented as those who produce their excellent reds. It’s made exactly the same way as Champagne and it has its own niche following inside France – it’s exclusively used at official functions by decree of the Mayor in preference to Champagne.
To be honest you don’t get to see much of it in the UK as it’s consumed by French wine lovers before we get much of a look in.
Bordeaux’s speciality is the sparkling wine Cremant de Bordeaux. There are only 7 French Cremant AOCs that are permitted to make this style of sparkler, namely Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, Jura, Limoux and Loire. Cremants (named for the French word meaning ‘creamy’ which refers to the frothy mousse of bubbles) are an excellent alternative to Champagne and each region has its own style. Each style is dictated by the region’s native grapes, terroir and wine making techniques. Cremant de Bordeaux is softer and more gentle than crisp, zesty Cremant d’Alsace.
The French adore their fizz, but they are leaving Champagne in favor of other sparkling wines – Cremants now account for half of sparkling wine sales in France.
The production of sparkling wines in Bordeaux is far from prolific but Cremant de Bordeaux has its roots in the 19th century. Saint Emilion has been making Cremants in the ancient cloisters, Clos des Cordeliers, since 1892 and Sauternes & Barsac were experimenting with sparkling wines as far back as the 1870s. The AOC Cremant de Bordeaux was created in 1990 and today you’ll find specialist small producers making Cremants as well as a few prestigious names – Jean Luc Thunevin of Premier Cru Chateau Valandraud is a Cremant producer.
Prices are very reasonable, partly thanks to Cremant being eclipsed by Bordeaux’s world famous reds and partly thanks to Cremant de Bordeaux being undiscovered outside France.
Cremant de Bordeaux – Jean Baptiste Audy
This is a recent discovery and it is produced by the most renowned producer of Cremants de Bordeaux for Jean Baptiste Audy (we can’t tell you who, as it’s a secret).
The producers are located in the heart of the Entre Deux Mers, near Langoiran, on the banks of the Garonne river. The Cremant is made in underground caves deep in the natural limestone galleries along the Garonne which are ideally suited for the process thanks to their high humidity.
Langoiran is a small town that spirals up a crag over the River Garonne, opposite Graves AOC. High on the crag sits the 13th century fortress Chateau de Langorian. In its heyday Langorian’s ancient dock catered for important river traffic and locally built barges used to carry stone quarried from the hillside and barrels of wine up the river.
This Cremant is made in exactly the same way as Champagne (using the Methode Champenoise); grapes are hand picked into small baskets and fermented in stainless steel vats, the second fermentation is done the following year in bottle, riddling is also done by hand as is disgorgement and the final product is then aged for several months more. The grapes used are the same grapes that go into classic Bordeaux white wines: Semillon and Muscadelle and are from vineyards on chalky limestone soils. This grape combination characterises this Cremant de Bordeaux with the hallmarks of subtle complexity married with a fine fragrance and lovely body.
Deliciously fresh and frothy with a delicate mousse of bubbles. A Bordelaise speciality made the same exacting way as Champagne with flavours of lime, pear and quince underpinned by subtle hints of white cherry blossom, crushed walnuts and caramel. Very aromatic and well balanced. A nice long frothy finish.
70% Semillon, 30% Muscadelle, 12% abv. 75Cl
The ideal temperature to enjoy it is chilled between 5 – 7°C. Perfect for enjoying as an aperitif, Cremant de Bordeaux is also great with desserts (raspberry trifle in particular!), appetizers, smoked salmon, prawns, chicken and turkey.