06/18/08 – misunderstood European bubbly (Crémant and Prosecco)

By Jesse on June 16, 2008

Wine friends,

This week marks the return from Hawaii of seven of our most frequent attendees.  Now, there’s been a lot of grumbling heard at recent meetings — “I don’t want them to come back,” “it’s better when they’re not here,” etc. — but I’ve decided to stop saying these things, and, instead, to try and cultivate a celebratory attitude regarding their imminent return.  Step one in this process is to break out some bubbly.

We’ve tasted a lot of Champagne, Cava from Spain, and California sparklers… but what about sparkling wine made elsewhere in Europe?  This week, we examine two oft-misunderstood Old World sparklers: Prosecco from Italy, and Crémant from France.

Crémant is actually not one wine — it’s the generic term for sparkling wine from any one of seven French regions, all of which is made using the traditional Champagne method of in-bottle fermentation.  Here are four to look for:

Crémant de Loire — the Loire Valley makes more sparkling wine than any of the other Crémant regions.  These wines will be made of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Cabernet Franc.
Crémant d’Alsace — these are crisp and acidic, and are made of Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and/or Chardonnay.
Crémant de Bourgogne — in Burgundy, law requires that Crémant de Bourgogne be composed of at least thirty percent Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris. Aligoté is often used to fill out the remaining parts of the blend
Crémant de Limoux — tasty sparklers from the south of France, made from the local grape Mauzac (which can make up no more than 70% of the blend) and Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc (which must be at least 30%).

Prosecco is a different story altogether.  Hailing from the northern Italian region of Veneto, it’s not made in the Champagne method — nor is is traditionally taken seriously by American wine drinkers.  However, this seems to be changing, as more and more people discover the “serious” Proseccos that can still be bought for less than their French counterparts.  This LA Times article details Prosecco’s rise from an ingredient in the famed Bellini cocktail to a fruity, crisp sparkler worthy of our attention.  If you’re going to buy a Prosecco, please read that article fully — it explains what to look for on the bottle, as well as how to avoid the cheap, “industrial” Prosecco.  (As always, you can eschew bottle-bringing responsibility and present us with a cool, crisp $10 bill instead.)

We’ll be returning to Jason’s nautically-themed apartment in parking-challenged Brentwood.  The RSVP situation is as follows: new members have eight spots reserved for them at each and every meeting, with preference within those spots given to newbies who were denied admittance due to space constraints in recent weeks.  Please do not RSVP in the positive if you’re not sure you can make it, as this will deny someone else the opportunity of attending the meeting.  If you do RSVP and then need to cancel, please inform me as soon as possible.

Once you’ve gotten your confirmation e-mail, go out in search of a bottle of tasty and misunderstood European sparkling wine — or, if you prefer, just bring us a $10 bill, because we love that!  (We depend on these donations to keep the Winos viable, so please do not hesitate to bring one in lieu of a bottle.)  Either way, we’ll look forward to seeing you all — in celebratory moods, don’t forget — on Wednesday night.