One of the many highlights of our European Waterways barge trip through the Alsace region of France was our introduction to Crémant D’Alsace.
It was love at first sip!
We were first introduced to the bubbly aperitif at a gourmet dinner on our barge. But we got a second taste at a private wine tasting (which included Crémant D’Alsace) at Domaine Pfister, one of more than 1,000 wine producers along the Alsace Wine Route (Routes des Vins D’Alsace). Acknowledged as the most popular wine route in France, this 60-year-old route winds through picturesque villages and vineyards set beside the foothills of the Vosges Mountains.
Admittedly, we favor sparkling wines. And our travels have allowed us to expand our repertoire beyond Champagne, which is often considered the gold standard. We’ve also fallen for Prosecco, Asti Spumante, Lambrusco and Franciacorta in Italy, and Cava in Spain.
What is Crémant D’Alsace?
In France, Cremant D’Alsace is a sparkling wine with delicate bubbles that is served both as an aperitif and as an accompaniment to food. Although crémant is typically more affordable than champagne, it is made using the same method (called méthode champenoise) that entails secondary fermentation in the bottle.
According to WineFolly.com, a wine education and appreciation website, crémant is produced in eight different appellations in France. Outside of France, Luxembourg is the only other country that can produce a wine with the crémant label. Thus, there are many different varieties of cremant to suit different tastes.
Additional requirements to be called an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) crémant: The grapes must be harvested manually; follow whole bunch pressing with minimal extraction; and the wine must be aged a minimum of nine months.
The Alsace region is the most popular supplier of crémant in France. Next in line: Crémant de Bourgogne (Burgundy), and Crémant de Loire.
After champagne, Crémant D’Alsace was the second sparkling wine to be consumed in France. This champagne alternative is most commonly made with Pinot Blanc grapes as a base but also can be a blend of other varietals including Pinot Gris, Riesling, or Chardonnay. Crémant Rosé is made using Pinot Noir grapes. The average alcohol content of a bottle of Crémant is between 10 to 11-1/2 percent.
Pairing Crémant D’Alsace with food
The official site of Alsace wines suggests that Crémant D’Alsace pairs well with every course, from aperitif to dessert:
- For a celebratory aperitif (no excuse needed), it pairs well with raw or cooked fish and caviar.
- Paired with a main course, it’s an ideal complement for chicken or other white meats.
- When in France, a cheese course is almost mandatory. It’s suggested that crémant goes well with floral rinds (such as Brie and Camembert); goat or sheep cheeses, and soft cheese such as Brillat Savarin.
- Yes, this very versatile, semi-dry wine also pairs with fruits, biscuits and cakes, like the regional specialty cake, kougelhopf.
Kir crémant: The crème de la crème
In my humble opinion, Crémant D’Alsace is best consumed as the base for a Kir Crémant apertif. This cocktail is a kissing cousin of a Kir Royale, which is made with champagne.
Steps to make a Kir Crémant at home:
1) Search for Kir crémant in your local wine store. The wine isn’t always easy to find and may have to be ordered from a distributor. Although the prices are more favorable than champagne, they are probably twice as expensive as when purchased in Alsace. You can probably find a decent bottle for about $20, making it less expensive than champagne but more expensive than Prosecco.
2) Purchase Crème de cassis, a dark red blackcurrant liquor that comes from Burgundy. Our favorite brand is Gabriel Boudier Crème de Cassis de Dijon, which happens to come in a beautiful bottle. Since you only will use a small amount at a time, invest in a good brand that looks smart on your bar.
3) Pour a generous splash (to taste) of Crème de cassis in a flute glass. Experts say that crémants are best served in narrow glasses that minimize exposure to air and preserve its aroma longer.
4) Top it with Crémant D’Alsace.
5) Toast: A Votre Santé
Photo credits: Jerome Levine
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