Champagne is THE alcoholic beverage of the holiday season but if you’ve ever bought a bottle (or 10), you know it does not come cheap. There’s a good reason for that — to be labeled Champagne and not just any old sparkling wine, it has to come from the Champagne region of France. Not to mention the process to make Champagne is complicated, so you’re paying for all of that in addition to the prestige.
As someone who has lived in France for four years now, I’ve become quite used to French wines and one of my favorites is the Loire Valley Crémant. Bubbly, with a cork that pops just like Champagne, available in white and rosé and still French of course, Crémant is much more wallet friendly and tastes just as good as Champagne. It’s my favorite Champagne alternative and will soon become yours, too.
Champagne alternative: Try Crémant
When I was still living in the USA, one year I wanted to go all out for my birthday, which happens to be New Year’s Eve. I picked out a gorgeous bottle of rosé Champagne that cost too much and enjoyed it like a queen with my family.
But then it was gone and I was wondering where my hard-earned cash went. My palate wouldn’t know a pricey Champagne from a Crémant, and unless you’re an expert, your palate won’t either. But your wallet will!
Granted, this Champagne alternative is cheaper in France (many bottles are around 8 euros) since it’s from here, but still even in the States, a bottle of Crémant will often run half the price of Champagne.
No one will debate that Champagne is great, but once you swallow it, it’s gone forever — not to mention it can be a major strain on your budget. So if you don’t have a ton of cash to spend on your holiday beverage, Crémant is worth a look. Even if you do have a ton of cash to spend, it’s still worth it because yes, it’s that good.
What is Champagne anyway?
As the most well-known sparkling wine in the world, Champagne is synonymous with luxury and everyone knows what it is. This special treat hails from the Champagne region of France and if it’s not from the Champagne region, it can’t have the Champagne label in the EU.
Only made from pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier grapes, Champagne comes in white and rosé varieties and ranges from bone dry (brut nature) to very sweet (doux) depending on the amount of sugar added. The process of making Champagne is long and precise. It includes two fermentations and a labor-intensive bottle turning and lowering process called riddling that moves the yeast to the neck of the bottle for removal.
How to say Champagne: If you’re speaking French or want to sound authentic, it’s NOT pronounced sham-payne. Tom’s here saying it the right way (click the button)
When I drink Champagne: Rarely, maybe for a very special occasion when I know we’ll finish the bottle and none will go to waste.
What is Crémant?
Not exclusive to the Loire Valley (just happens that since I live here that’s the one I’m most familiar with), Crémant is a sparkling wine that’s made via the méthode champenoise just like Champagne and is traditionally less bubbly than its more expensive cousin. It’s available in rosé and white varieties. brut and demi sec as well. Really though, the value can’t be beat.
France has seven regions that produce Crémant: Crémant d’Alsace, Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Die, Crémant du Jura, Crémant de Limoux and Crémant de Loire. Alsace is the largest with about 50% of the overall Crémant production.
All of these regions must play by the following rules (among others):
Grapes must be harvested by hand, grapes may be whole bunch pressed or destemmed, the second fermentation must happen in the bottle, the finished wines cannot exceed a dosage of more than 50g/l of sugar.
How to say Crémant: The “t” at the end is silent. (click the play button below)
When I drink Crémant: As an apéro, go-to bubbly choice, more casual setting. I buy it locally and it’s always in my fridge.
Where to buy Crémant in the U.S.
Luckily, Crémant has become more and more mainstream over the last couple of years outside of France. In the U.S., you can find it at specialty wine shops but also places like Total Wine and ABC Fine Wine & Spirits.
What have you been drinking lately? Have you tried Crémant? What’s your favorite Champagne alternative?