Crémant d'Alsace

A great wine on the table

Over the years, I have come to enjoy Crémant more and more. One reason is that it is a splendid companion at the table. In addition, it also very cheap in relation to the quality and the amount of work invested in the production.

Crémant is important for Alsace

Alsace has, as we all know, three basic AOC. The most recent of these is AOC Crémant d'Alsace formally effective as of 24 August 1976.

cremant There are four important regions in France for production of sparkling wine according to Métode traditionnelle; Champagne, Loire, Bourgogne and Alsace. With respect to volume, Alsace ranks as number 2 with a yearly production of ca 255 000 hectoliters, e.g. 33 million bottles. This corresponds to about 10% of the production of Champagne. In fact, the huge company Moët et Chandon produces as many bottles of sparkling wine a year as Alsace.

To reach this volume, 18% of the 15 500 hectares of Alsace are devoted to crémant. The arithmetics works out; 0,18 x 15 500 = 2 800 ha which is close to the 32 000 ha of viticultural area in Champagne.

The domestic consumption of AOC Crémant d'Alsace corresponds to as much as 30% of all 'vin mousseux' in France.

Métode traditionnelle

Production of sparkling wine according to the method developed in Champagne includes the following steps:

  • A basic wine, high in acidity, is vinified to a desired level of alcohol. The grapes are harvested close to maturity normally at 11% potential alcohol, and is chaptalized so that the fermentation will end at 12.5%. This wine is registered and given the formal designation 'Vin destiné à l'elaboration de Crémant d'Alsace', Wine to be used for the production of Crémant d'Alsace.
  • The basic wine is bottled for a second fermentation together with additional sugar and yeast,'liqueur de tirage'. These bottles are sealed with beer caps. Then the second fermentations starts and a pressure of 4-6 bars is created in the bottles.
  • The fermentation takes a few weeks, but the bottles are left to rest in piles, 'sur latte'. During this period, the dead yeast is microbial decomposition, called autolysis which adds the toasty complexity to the crémant.
  • To remove the dead yeast, the bottles go through the 'remuage', normally in mechanical devices, 'gyropalettes'. During this step, the dead yeast cells are collected at a plug right under the cap.
  • After the 'remuage', the upper bottleneck, including the plug of yeast, is frozen. When the cap is removed, the plug is ejected by the pressure within the bottle, 'dégorgering'. Immediately, the bottle is topped with a small amount of 'liqueur d'expedition', i.e. base wine with a small amount of sugar. This sugar is called 'dosage' which will give the final balance between sugar and acidity. Finally, the bottle is sealed using the traditional cork adn wrapping.