By James Atkinson

Cremant d'Alsace has quietly risen to become France's second favourite sparkling wine, despite it being a relative unknown in the Australian market.

Accounting for 25 per cent of Alsace's total wine production, Cremant is behind only Champagne in terms of its popularity with French consumers, outstripping the nation's other sparkling wine regions including Burgundy and Loire.

At last week's Millesimes Alsace wine trade fair, Markus del Monego – named World’s Best Sommelier in 1998 – presented Bestheim's Cremant d'Alsace Cuvee 60, a 100 per cent Pinot Blanc made with 60 months of bottle fermentation, as his favourite Alsace wine.

He told delegates that Cremant d'Alsace deserves to be considered in more serious terms than just an aperitif or a celebratory tipple.

Kuehn export and marketing manager Valerie Dirringer agreed that Cremant is one of Alsace's unsung success stories.

"It provides such an interesting price and quality ratio alternative to Champagne when you don't want to spend too much money and you want something to celebrate," she said.

"For Kuehn it represents about 30 per cent of our production, out of one million bottles."

Alsatian-style cuvees

Production methods for Cremant d'Alsace largely mirror those of Champagne, but the Alsatian cuvees are typically leaner, with most avoiding malolactic fermentation and relying predominately on Pinot Blanc with Pinot Gris and/or Riesling. 

However, any combination of these grapes as well as Pinot Auxerois, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is allowable.

Wolfberger, one of Alsace's biggest producers of Cremant, has nine different expressions on the market, including a 100 per cent Riesling and 100 per cent Pinot Gris as well as a Rose-style produced with Pinot Noir.

Forty Alsace winemakers are now producing Cremant under the recently created 'Emotion' appellation that mandates that only the first-pressed cuvee is used, as well as 24 months on lees and a specific bottle. Others such as Dopff Au Moulin meet and exceed these criteria on their Cremant but have opted not to take it up. [continues below]

Joseph Cattin’s Emotion Cremant is an 80 per cent Chardonnay, 20 per cent Pinot Blanc blend that meets these specifications, while its standard Cremant is a 100 per cent Pinot Blanc that spends 15 months on lees.

While the vast majority of Cremant are non-vintage, Jacques Cattin Junior (pictured above) predicts that more vintage expressions will be released in the future as the region becomes more and more serious about its sparkling wines.

The Shout Team

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