Cave de Lugny Blanc de Blancs Crémant de Bourgogne, Burgundy France NV
Despite the EU’s best GDPR efforts, my inbox is still full of company spam. In the heatwave this has meant lots of emails from retailers boasting how much sparkling wine they’ve sold this summer. Prosecco is generally top of the list, Champagne and English fizz occasionally get a word in edgeways. But there’s also been a fair bit of excitable verbiage about our rediscovery of France’s ‘other’ sparkling wines. I don’t mind because the likes of crémant, blanquette, and the ancient but trendy style known as pétillant naturel (or pet nat) that are produced all over the country, are among the best-value sparkling wines around. Burgundy co-operative Cave de Lugny’s dry and vivacious all-chardonnay Champagne-alike, for example, is very smartly done.
Domaine Collin Crémant de Limoux Cuvée Selection Brut France NV (£14.25, Yapp Brothers)
One of the best places for sparkling wines which, like Champagne (but unlike most prosecco), have their fizz-creating, flavour-deepening second fermentation in the bottle, is the southern region of Limoux. The cooler position in the foothills of the Pyrenees lends itself to retaining the kind of high, natural acidity that is a prerequisite of all good sparkling wines. Tesco has a good example with its finest* 1531 Blanquette de Limoux (£9). It’s name is inspired by the Benedictine monks who made sparkling wine here almost 500 years ago. Made from mauzac, chenin blanc and chardonnay, it has a brisk sour-apple charm. Even better is the refined crémant of Philippe Collin, made from the same grape varieties he grew up with in a family of winegrowers in Champagne.
Domaine Bruno Sorg Cremant d’Alsace France NV (£17.50, Hedley Wright)
I enjoyed the Collin with a friend of mine on a particularly sweltering night in late July. And it was all the better for her having kept the bottle in a cool dark place for a year. This is the case with most bottle-fermented sparkling wines, including non-vintage Champagne: if you like those biscuity, patisserie flavours in your fizz, then a bit of bottle age will tend to bring more of that richness, as well as softening the wine out. It works even on cheaper bottles, such as the Aldi Exquisite Crémant du Jura I had left over from a couple of Christmases ago, and opened recently (the 2015 vintage is currently £7.99). I’d also be curious to try it out on a bottle of the Sorg family’s blend of pinot blanc, pinot gris and chardonnay from Alsace – although it’s already beautifully rounded but racy enough right now.