Loire Valley Wines Uncorked: Crémant de Loire

“We can't possibly have a summer love. So many people have tried that the name's become proverbial. Summer is only the unfulfilled promise of spring, a charlatan in place of the warm balmy nights I dream of in April." ― F. Scott Fitzgerald

From the quote above, it's a safe bet that good old Fitz was not much of a fan of the summer months, his expectations dreamed of in April, flittered away in the harsh reality of July's brutal heat. But it's that heat which brings the delight of summertime sipping, and without it, how would the lovely wine bearing grape known as Cabernet Français come to be. The Loire Valley is many things to many people, for cyclists, it's a panacea of gently meandering hills and many small towns within easy reach offering respite to weary summer travelers. For the wine enthusiasts, it means delightful, favorable and affordable wines of varied styles and varietals, today we explore Crémant de Loire. 

The more I explore the Loire Valley via (story prep) research of its wines and the sights available to the wandering wino, the more it whets my appetite to pay this part of France a visit, sooner rather than later. I've been to France a handful of times, I always come away with a new appreciation of their culture and its long-lived history. When I visited both Bordeaux and Champagne I was hugely impressed with the sights and sounds of those historical wine-producing regions, but taking a closer look at the Loire Valley, admittedly for the first time, just beneath the surface, beats the soul of an epic and remarkedly unsung wine region with a quality to price ratio which will surprise you.

I mean to say, yes, I knew about it, of course, having tasted many of the wines over the years, but rarely did I stop to give this wine region much more thought, than the casual study of the area via the various certification courses. Researching for this article, tasting two of the samples sent for the review process have aroused my curiosity. I have my go-to online wine store, and they have an ample supply of wines from this region, so I'm filling the cart, to see what else I can uncork about the Loire Valley.

If you want to see the land of true French pageantry, the Loire Valley is the place to go. Gorgeous, jaw-dropping Castle estates seem to stretch out over the entire countryside. There's grand Château de Chambord, which took years to complete, exemplifying the height of aristocracy, somehow surviving the French Revolution and other wars since then. Another place you'll want to visit and be sure to bring along your new drone is Château de Chenonceau which has a gorgeous arch over the river Cher, featuring a history shaped by several powerful women, hence its nickname, Le Château des Dames. These destinations and more are high on my bucket list, and I hope to one day soon see them for myself.

If the thrill of an array of glittering banquet halls, soaring crenelated towers, architectural seemingly impossible arches, and a thousand years of creative artistry float your boat, then the Loire Valley should be your next vacation destination. But as I'm fond of saying in a variety of ways,  with a familiar catchphrase, "come for the jaw-dropping landscape and spectacle, but stay for the wine." This wine region's plethora of enchanting châteaux, and the villages and the vineyards that surround them produce some of the best wine values in the world.

If all that travel talk had whet your appetite to know about the great wines produced in this region, this is the part of the article, where I dive into the tasting notes regarding the two bubblies I tasted recently, yes both were samples provided by Loire Valley Wines. What is Crémant de Loire? Good question, we all know about Champagne, but what about bubbly produced elsewhere in France?

There are seven different wine producing regions allowed to make sparkling wine, known as Crémant, roughly translated to mean méthode champenoise or méthode traditionelle, which basically means the second fermentation is in the bottle. I'm a huge fan of Champagne, as much as the next guy, but what if there was something nearly as quaffable, and delicious coupled with a smaller price of entry? The more frugal side of my brain, where the wine purchasing decisions bounce off the inside of my skull, makes gravitating toward a Crémant de Loire an easy decision.

With that decision-making process made, it's much easier for me to convince Mrs. Cuvée that living the bubbly lifestyle is well within our reach. Now, before anyone gets carried away, just because it's half of the price of the average bottle cost of the aforementioned region, does that mean it's only half as good? Not at all, in fact, there's some parity here, but it's not meant for comparison.

That said the quality is so good, and while based on entirely different varietals like Chenin and Cabernet Franc, the flavors and overall finesse will blow away any preconceptions you may have had. I had a similar experience with sparkling wines from Italy recently. When I think of the word Crémant, it sounds a bit like crème de la crème or the top expression of sparkling wines from wine-regions which typically are known for producing still wines.

Gratien & Meyer Crémant de Loire Brut Rosé, France: In the glass, you can see a gorgeous salmon leaning toward tangerine in color.  What we have here is a sophisticated Crémant de Loire Rosé made by macerating the one hundred percent Cabernet Franc grapes and, using méthode champenoise to create the delicate finely honed bubbles. A medium bodied wine, mild to chewy tannins, a bouquet bursting with the aromas of freshly sliced strawberries and red currants.

The palate is plush, and the acid keeps things interesting, bright cherry, tangerine, a hint of crusty bread, and strawberry compote with a long and lasting finish. An excellent food wine, which delivers far beyond its very reasonable price, I paired it with hickory smoked pulled pork sandwichs, a side of broccoli slaw and sweet potato fries, this pairing was nothing short of hog-heaven. This wine earned a score of 91 points, and the price ranges from $15.99 to $20. Another strong buy recommendation and it's awarded the highly coveted, "drink now and drink often" citation.

NV Domaine de Bois Moze Cremant de Loire Brut, France: This producer is a favorite destination for travelers of all sorts and a rather large 'welcome' outside beckons folks to stop by for a tasting, they're located in Anjou between Angers and Saumur. They offer a wide range of still red and white 'still' wines and a variety of Crémants de Loire as well. This wine is one hundred percent Chenin using méthode champenoise to create the delicate, yet tightly formed well-honed bubbles.

Onto the tasting note: In the glass, this wine appeared light in color, with a shimmering straw core and the clarity was quite clear. Again, not an overly aromatic wine, sporting moderate aromatics; but after warming up a bit, wet river rock freshly plucked from icy waters, fragrant florals, and a note of biscuit in the background.

On the palate, I found this wine to be off-dry to dry, nicely balanced, but a bit more RS than the dry Rose, seen above. The body was medium, and the tannin level was moderate to low. A bright vein of acid ran through the unctuous fruit, delivering a food friendly wine, with low alcohol and a modest amount of sweetness that would pair wonderfully with spicy cuisine, still wonderfully clean and refreshing.

The overall flavor profile was pleasing, and sporting newly bloomed honeysuckle perfuming the air, a slight citrus note, summer-ripe white peaches, pears and crushed river rock. The finish was medium to long, pleasing, inviting another sip, swirl, and slurp. An excellent pairing partner with spicy cuisine or as summer aperitif before the main event. This wine earned a score of 87 points, and the price ranges from $15.99 to $20. Another solid buy recommendation.

Full Disclosure: These wines in the article today, were samples submitted for the review process.


Wine Barbies said…
Hey Bill, we really like this article about bubbly, and the pink ones are more than awesome, they look great with our heels and our newest designer backpack, in hot pink.


Wine Barbies (we only drink wine with a straw)
Vino Savant Blog said…
Hey, Bill, great article, you've created a gorgeous tapestry of one my favorite relatively unsung regions. I'm should be surprised there are so few comments and sharing of the piece, but with today's social climate you don't stand much of a chance. Good luck!

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