Cremant is the French term for high quality sparkling wine produced outside of the Champagne district. In 1905 when Alsace became a part of France its sparkling wine was christened Cremant. The region had been German and the product had been called Champagne but since France already had a Champagne district that had to change.
In 1975 the term was expanded to refer to sparkling wines made in any of the French AOC's, (appellations d'origine controllata) or protected designations of origin. Today there are 300 French wine AOC's. Most of them were around in '75 so there was no shortage of Cremant back then.
Back in 1993 when the European Union took over, Champagne was facing a lot of competition from other Euro-nations and across the globe. Within France, Cremant, which was always an esteemed product, became streamlined. In 1996 it was codified to mean "high quality sparkling wine produced since 1986 from just eight AOC's.
Those eight AOC's in relative descending order of importance are: Alsace, Burgundy, Loire, Limoux, Bordeaux, du Jura, Savoie, and de Die. The largest producer of Cremant in France has always been Alsace.
The 1996 law says all Cremant must be made according to the extensive Champagne method. Moreover, the grapes have to be hand harvested and "whole cluster pressed with a limited must extraction." The wine also must be aged for nine months.
The grape varietals are determined by each appellation. Once they are ascertained, they too are then written into law. The Cremant regions of production within the appellation are also codified. In most appellations the regions and allowable grape types are broadly defined.
Please join us this Thursday October 10th when David Hobbs leads us in a tasting of three from Del Rio Vineyards of Rogue Valley, Oregon. Specifically we'll be tasting the Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Also on the tasting table will be the Vino Robles Red 4, a Paso Robles Rhone-style blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache. We taste from 5 to 7pm. Please join us for the event.