Tag Archives: sparkling wine

Savoyarde Wines: Not To Be Underestimated

by Ian Blackshaw

My wife and I have just spent a few days staying in a friend’s apartment in Le Grand Bornand, a winter and summer resort in the Haute Savoie, and actually enjoyed some warm sunny weather (30+ degrees centigrade!), unlike the Pas de Calais, where the weather pattern continues to be rain, rain and more rain! When will Summer arrive the locals cry in despair?

The Haute Savoie and the Savoie (Departements 74 & 73), which are located in the French Western Alps and form part of the Rhone-Alps Region, produce a wide range and style of wines, including sparkling wines. The one from Ayze, which bears its name and grown above Bonneville in the Arve valley, is particularly interesting, if a little stringent for some palates.

The traditional capital of the Savoie is Chambery, which is an important centre for the Continue reading “Savoyarde Wines: Not To Be Underestimated” »

Blanquette de Limoux: A fine sparkler from the Pays d’Oc

by Ian Blackshaw

Blanquette de Limoux - (photo by Stephanie Watson)

My younger brother-in-law, the wine buff, and his wife have just celebrated their Ruby Wedding. He is not very keen on fizz, although he will take the odd glass of Champagne, if pressed, but his wife is and her favourite sparkling wine is Blanquette de Limoux from the Languedoc region of south west France, where they have spent many holidays, and this sparkler was much in evidence at their party.

Although, as readers of my wine articles will know, I prefer Champagne, which, as far as I am concerned, is the real thing, but I must say that France produces some exceptional sparklers, including Blanquette de Limoux. This is one of four AOCs of Limoux – three white and one red. Blanquette is not only the local name for the main grape variety used in these white wines, that is, Mauzac, but also means white. In fact, 15% of Mauzac must be used in the production of the wines, but also Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc may also be used. The Mauzac grape, of which there must 90% in the wine, gives Blanquette de Limoux its zesty taste and acidity, which a white wine – and particularly a sparkling one – needs. The wine also has a distinctive apple-peel flavour to it.

Abbaye Saint Hilaire - the birthplace of Blanquette de Limoux

Local wine historians believe that the world’s first sparkling wine was produced in the Languedoc region in 1531 by the Benedictine monks of Saint-Hilaire abbey. There are even claims that sparkling wine was around and traded in Roman times!

The Blanquette methode ancestrale produces a sweetish wine and is made without disgorgement – the process of releasing the yeast from the bottle which has been added to facilitate the second fermentation of the wine. This wine is produced in the same area as Blanquette de Limoux and, according the AOC rules, may only contain the Mauzac grape.

The third AOC sparkler from Limoux is the Crémant de Limoux, which is made according to the methode traditionnelle, which does involve disgorgement, and contains more Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc in the blend, which may not exceed 90%. The other 10% is made up of Mauzac and Pinot Noir. This wine is produced in more than 40 villages around the city of Limoux, which is located in the eastern foothills of the Pyrenees, south of the impressive fortified city of Carcassonne. It is a very satisfying aperitif or dessert wine, owing much its terroir.

Although, in my opinion, they are no substitute for Champagne, French sparkling wines should not be underestimated and this certainly goes for the Limoux sparklers and especially the Blanquette de Limoux, which is a fine example of them.

A Cracking Sparkler From Alsace

Eguisheim

by Ian Blackshaw

We have just spent a delightful few days in Alsace. We stayed in Eguisheim, a wine village, which, with its distinctive half-timbered houses and narrow cobbled streets and squares, lives up to its claim as one of the most beautiful villages in France, located seven kilometres south of Colmar, which is the centre of the Alsace wine trade. The medieval centre of Colmar is also well worth visiting. During our stay, we also visited the well-known and charming wine villages of Riquewhir and Ribeauville.

Alsace wines are not to everyone’s taste. One of my two sisters-in-law cannot stand them; whilst the other cannot drink enough of them! Perhaps the most famous Alsace wine is gewürztraminer, which I have previously written about and particularly enjoy with foie gras.
The Alsace wine aficionado sister-in-law particularly likes Cremant d’Alsace, a sparkling wine, which of all the Cremants (so-called because of the foam produced when the wine is poured into a glass) produced in other French wine regions, in my opinion – and also hers! – is the best of its genre, although, I must say, that Cremant de Loire is a close runner up!

Three Cremants d'Alsace from Wolfsberger

In Eguisheim, you will find the well-known wine house of Wolfberger, probably the best producer of Cremant d’Alsace. Naturally, we visited their cave and did a tasting, which was very professional and most informative and enjoyable. The house was founded more than a hundred years ago and boasts 1200 hectares of vines under cultivation on south-facing steep slopes.

Wolfberger trade on their traditional methods of wine production and the care they lavish on them. They are certainly passionate about their wines and this clearly shows in the quality of their products. Incidentally, they are also well-known for their eaux de vie, for which the Alsace wine region is also famous, including a very fine Marc de Gewürztraminer.

Since the end of the nineteenth century, Alsace has produced its Cremants according to the ‘traditional method’. And since 24 August, 1976, the Cremants d’Alsace have enjoyed their own AOC.

Classically, the Cremants d’Alsace are made from the Alsatian Pinot Blanc grape variety, but other grape varieties are used in the blending of the wine, including the Tokay Pinot Gris, which gives the wine its richness and zest – its sparkle!

The Cremant d’Alsace is, indeed, a fine sparkler and would grace any celebration. So, why not crack open a bottle – or two!

Everything You Should Know About Alsace!