Little Known Sparklers

Two Great Options for New Year’s Eve


It’s time to talk about bubbles. For better or worse we associate New Year’s Eve with sparkling wine, though of course we could enjoy sparkling wine just about any time. One of the reasons we look to bubblies this time of year is that we are celebrating and sparkling wine is a celebratory wine, and often priced that way. But there are options out there. Options that might allow us to pop a cork just about any time we like.

Champagne is the king of sparkling wines, and the wine that most obviously frames our point of reference here but should we want something more modestly priced, either for New Year’s or any day we’re in the mood so some fizz we can and should look beyond the obvious. The truth is that sparkling wines are produced just about everywhere one finds great still wines but today i want to talk about two of the lesser known yet consistent source of great, fresh fizz.
To begin with let’s stay in France where there are so many options for sparkling wine that one could spend a week writing about them.  For the sake of brevity I’ve chosen to focus on only one of these sparkling wines: Cremant d’Alsace. Simply put these are sparkling wines made in the Champagne method, known as Cremant, from the region of Alsace. Made in the champagne method here refers to having had the secondary fermentation, the one that creates the bubbles in the wine, take place within the bottle. 
Coming from Alsace, these wines are allowed to be produced from a different group of grapes than Champagne, which must be produced from any combination of the three allowed varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. In Alsace the Blanc de Noirs must be 100% Pinot Noir but the remaining sparkling wines can be produced using any blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and/or Auxerrois that the producer sees fit to bottle. 
While Cremant d’Alsace may be something of an unusual wine to many here in the States it has proven to be a wildly successful wine throughout the world and now accounts for nearly a quarter of Alsace’s annual production. The producers in Alsace love it because they are able to harvest the fruit for these wines earlier than their harvest for table wines. This is a common practice when producing sparkling wines. The base wines for sparkling wines need higher acids than table wine, since there is generally some sugar added during the production of sparkling wines and acid is required to help balance out that sweetness.  An earlier harvest means less risk of issues in the vineyard such as rot, and less risk of late season rains that are the bane of every producer’s existence.
The results are are steady stream of improving sparkling wines, generally at quite attractive prices. These Cremant d’Alsace tend to differ from Champagne in some notable ways. The mousse, a fancy term for the bubbles, tends to be less fine that with most Champagne and the flavors of the wines tends to be fruitier than Champagne, which generally has more of the nutty, toasty, brioche-like character that is imparted by lengthy ageing of the wine on the yeast cells that were used to produce the secondary fermentation.
Cremant d’Alsace tend to be roughly $18-$25 a bottle, and offer an attractive alternative for the sparkling wine buyer. On the following page you will find tasting notes for 6 widely available producers that might appeal to you but don’t hesitate to ask your local wine store about other options they might have on their shelves. 

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  • How many of these are widely available in wine and liquor stores across the US?

    Dec 27, 2013 at 2:08 PM

  • Snooth User: frenchie1
    393608 510

    Pierre Sparr is available at Total Wine Stores and I have even seen it at Park City UT liquor stores.

    Dec 27, 2013 at 4:09 PM

  • Snooth User: frenchie1
    393608 510

    The Cremants from the Loire Valley as well as Bourgogne are equally interesting. I believe that the Loire Cremants are not as well known either.

    Dec 27, 2013 at 4:10 PM

  • Many of these are widely available in larger wine stores and online if your state accepts shipping. Wine-searcher lists numerous locations; several are found on wine [dot] com ... good luck!

    Dec 27, 2013 at 5:25 PM

  • Snooth User: raindog812
    1423766 23

    Albrecht Brut Rose is a great bargain bottle at around $16-$20.

    Dec 27, 2013 at 5:28 PM

  • raindog812--agreed! a lovely wine at a great price. all Cremants from Alsace are made in the same "traditional method" as Champagne ... so, same process & similar quality at an excellent price.

    Dec 27, 2013 at 5:33 PM

  • Snooth User: frenchie1
    393608 510

    I concur, raindog8! I have enjoyed it as well!

    Dec 27, 2013 at 5:33 PM

  • Snooth User: pasopablo
    925075 27

    And the Bourgogne Cremants Frenchie1 mentions are great.After that, you can move up to the Laetitia sparkling wines from Arroyo
    Grande, CA! Methode Champenoise produced in a winery established by the Deutz family from Champagne. The best sparklers in California.

    Dec 27, 2013 at 5:46 PM

  • Snooth User: dtiberii
    1302640 46

    When we visited the Franciacorta region last January, we tasted the Franciacorta from Le Marchesine, Majolini and Le Cantorie. They were all excellent. Also we were fortunate to try their Satens at each of these wineries and, like Gregory Dal Piaz, I found them to be different and very enjoyable. I actually liked the Satens better than the Franciacortas because of their softness, fuller mouth feel and more fruit flavors.

    Dec 28, 2013 at 6:50 AM

  • Snooth User: mjapka
    656126 57

    It is worth mentioning that the best way to enjoy a cremant d'Alsace is while sitting in a basement eatery in Riquewihr, Alsace, enjoying cold flutes of cremant and a steaming platter of choucroute Royale. This is a local dish of sauerkraut and hams and sausages, and they cuddle a room temp little bottle of cremant in the middle, remove the cork, tap it with a fork until the cork jets out, and the cremant overflows and adds flavor and bubbles to the sauerkraut. It is great!!

    Dec 28, 2013 at 11:19 AM

  • Snooth User: DM94523
    77883 116

    I have to add another plug for the Cremant wines of Burgundy (Cremant de Bourgogne). Also produced in the Methode Champenoise, they offer great bubblies and great values. Try some of the sparklers from JCB wines (#21 or, for the adventurous, #69). There are also some good options from Louis Bouillot, one of the oldest sparkling producers in the region. All these wines are available for $20-25 per bottle (online at boissetwineliving [dot] com). À VOTRE SANTÉ!

    Dec 29, 2013 at 1:38 AM

  • Snooth User: gflat9
    460826 1

    From my experience, Faccoli is the best producer of Franciacorta sparkling wine. Claudio does not make wine to please popular tastes. My favorite, his Dosaggio Zero, is extreme - and extremely delicious! Great with food, cured meats, prosciutto and cheeses. The Extra Brut is great too: both age for 10 to 20 years easily. I'm in Bergamo as I write, looking at a bottle of 1996 Faccoli Extra Brut...perhaps it won't make it to the New Year!

    Dec 29, 2013 at 5:38 PM

  • Snooth User: graubear
    1302791 43

    What do you think about “Henkel Trocken” (dry) product of Wiesbaden region in Germany.

    Dec 29, 2013 at 11:45 PM

  • What is sparkling ? and what is champagne?

    Dec 30, 2013 at 8:35 PM

  • Snooth User: graubear
    1302791 43

    Just in few words - champagne is “sparkling” from the Champagne region in France. But that is not all...

    Jan 01, 2014 at 12:19 AM

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