Crémant de Bourgogne

Sparkling wine from Burgundy, an increasingly popular alternative to Champagne


Burgundy, or Bourgogne, is well known for wine. Although most people think of red wine when they think of Burgundy and in fact some of the most famous and expensive red wines of the world are from Burgundy such as Romanée-Conti, Richebourg, La Tache (all Pinot Noir incidentally), and many more, that's not all.

Burgundy also makes absolutely killer white Burgundies (from Chardonnay) as well as a lesser known sparkling wine, Crémant de Bourgogne.

Although I hadn’t seriously explored many Crémant de Bourgognes previously (although I have two open as I write this and tasting notes will appear below), the first wine that ever blew me away, my first wine epiphany, was a white Burgundy. I was at 1 Canton Road, a wonderful high end Chinese Restaurant in Hong Kong, and almost opted for beer as my friend Pierre, The Champagne Poodle himself, ordered a white wine, and well, I thought I didn’t like whites. It was a Corton Charlemagne 1989 from Louis Latour, a very rich, full-bodied and opulent wine. I won’t go into details, but I was simply blown away and have been a wine aficionado since.

The French terms "Mousseux" and "Crémant" are used to refer to French sparkling wine not made in Champagne. The best selling French sparkling wine, after Champagne of course, is Crémant de Loire. Other sparkling wines recognized by French law include Crémant d'Alsace, Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant de Die, Crémant du Jura, and Crémant de Limoux. Crémant de Luxembourg is a similar sparkling wine from nearby Luxembourg.

In Burgundy, besides Crémant de Bourgogne (codified into French law in 1975), there is also a sparkling wine called Bourgogne Mousseux (codified into French law in 1943). This is a sparkling red wine made from primarily Pinot Noir and Gamay, although up to 15% of white grapes can be added including Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris. In the area known as l'Yonne, up to 10% of a grape known as César may also be used. Much information on grape percentages you’ll find online are out of date, as Bourgogne Mousseux used to include white and rose wines as well as red. Bourgogne Mousseux is not as popular as Crémant de Bourgogne – in fact I’ve never seen a bottle!

Over 1.6 million bottles of Crémant be Bourgogne are exported, much more than just a few years ago, and it is becoming a popular and cheaper alternative to Champagne. Allowable grapes include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gamay, Aligoté, Melon and Sacy, grapes must be harvested by hand, made into wine using the méthode champenoise, and aged for a year minimum.

It is popular for making Kir Royal, which is sparkling wine with a bit of fruit liqueur added, most often crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur), also commonly blackberry liqueur and others. My friend Helene like Crémant be Bourgogne with basil liqueur added, and I can report it's pretty good! Some make the distinction that Kir Royal is made with Champagne and Kir Pétillant is the proper name when it's made with any other sparkling wine.

It comes in several varieties, and isn’t hard to find:
Crémant de Bourgogne blanc - this has a minimum of 30% Pinot Noir and/or Chardonnay.

Crémant de Bourgogne blanc de blancs - no surprise that this is all white grapes, usually 100% Chardonnay
Crémant de Bourgogne blanc de noirs - made from Pinot Noir

Crémant de Bourgogne rosé - Pinot Noir possibly with some Gamay which makes it very fruity.

Bailly Lapierre makes only Crémant de Bourgognes, including a  Réserve, Rosé, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir/Chardonnay Blend and, also some other interesting Pinot Noir based blends. Since they say "our greatest pride is in making sparkling wines from the inimitable Pinot Noir grape" I decided to try their 100% Pinot Noir first.

Bailly Lapierre Crémant de Bourgogne BrutTasting Note: Bailly Lapierre Crémant de Bourgogne Brut - April 2013, rated B-

This wine is 60% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay, 10% Gamay, and 10% Aligote. They describe this as their "easiest drinking" Cremant.

A light straw color.

The nose is apples and some melon, some minerals with air.

Palate is fairly simple: apples, some honeydew melon, and it tastes very fresh

I paid US$12 on sale and it is not a bad wine at all, but it is very simple and easy drinking. Kind of like Boones Farm, but with class.

Bailly Lapierre Crémant de Bourgogne Pinot Noir Brut Tasting Note: Bailly Lapierre Crémant de Bourgogne Pinot Noir Brut - March 2013, rated B+

A 100% Pinot Noir Blanc de noirs with a  light straw color.

Very fresh on the nose, with some apple, chalky minerals, and a surprising and lovely pineapple.

The palate is very smooth with a touch of orange, some apple, and lemon, It's delightfully well balanced and delicious!

I've got another bottle to confirm I do indeed like it this much. At about US$15 this is an absolute steal!

Albert Bichot Crémant be Bourgogne Brut Rose

Albert Bichot has been making wine in Burgundy since 1834, and has 3 Crémant be Bourgognes. Their entry level Brut reserve is mainly Chardonnay, their Brut Rose has Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gamay which you can see in the picture has a very festive and bright color, and their Brut Privee, their top of the line, which is all Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Tasting Note: Albert Bichot Crémant be Bourgogne Brut Rose - rated  B+

Very rich red/pink color with a touch or orange. Almost neon or dayglo it's so bright.

A small yet more than adequate amount of bubbles.

On the nose, wet stones and minerals. With air and warming some red fruit, but the nose is far more about minerals and stones.

Excellent vinuosity on the palate, with cut strawberries, plenty of uplifting acidity, and quite smooth.

You'll never confuse this with a great Champagne Rose like Dom Perignon or Krug, but very nice for what it is. Nice to drink.

Simmonet-Febvre is located in Chablis and has been making wines since 1840 and makes several wines including Chablis and several bottlings of Crémant de Bourgogne. Currently these are Brut Blanc (60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir), Brut Rose (Pinot Noir with a "hint of Gamay"), Brut "Pinot Noir" (100% Pinot Noir) and Blanc Prestige (vintage dated and Pinot Noir with Chardonnay some years).Simmonet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne Brut

Tasting Note: Simmonet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne Brut - rated B

The color is light yellow, almost white.

On the nose light and clear high-toned apple, chalk, and very fresh.

On the palate it shows apple, some orange citrus tones, and is light to medium bodied.

This got much better as it warmed. It would get a better score but was somewhat llacking on the midpalate. This would be an excellent sparkling wine to make a Kir Royal.