It’s that time of year. Champagne and Prosecco are must haves but there are plenty of other interesting sparkling drops to enjoy. (Don’t panic, we do have Champagne and Prosecco).
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Traditionally the Loire has not been one of France’s prestige regions; this honour falling to Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne. The upside is that while the quality of Loire wines has improved markedly in the last few decades, the traditional view of the region is slow to change in the French psyche. Generally, prices have remained modest, which is tough for Loire Valley producers but great for astute wine lovers.
Saumur's imposing chateau, overlooking the Loire.
Crémant is a term used in France to refer to the finest dry sparkling wine made outside Champagne, using the traditional method (méthode Champenoise). There are seven regions approved to produce crémant, one of which is Crémant de Loire. This appellation was created in 1975 in the Middle Loire, mainly in the region of Saumur, but also in Anjou and Touraine.
The historic town of Saumur sits astride the Loire River, surrounded by the appellation of the same name. The geography is a bit complicated here, but Saumur is upstream from Savennières and surrounded by bits of Anjou. The town is home to France’s national equestrian school and its famous elite riding squad, the Cadre Noir. It was also the birth place of Coco Chanel in 1883 and presiding over the town sits the magnificent Château Saumur.
Crémant de Loire is a dry sparkling wine made in both white and rosé styles. The predominant variety used is Chenin Blanc, although a few international varieties such as Chardonnay are also permitted in the blend. As in Champagne where Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are used, red varieties may also be used in Crement de Loire, most notably Cabernet Franc.
Bottles on lees in Langlois-Chateau cellars.
The potential of Saumur has been recognised by the Champenois themselves, with several houses setting up shop there, including Taittinger and Alfred Gratien. In the 1970s, well-positioned vineyards and quality wines of the Saumur based Langlois-Chateau estate caught the eye of Champagne heavyweight Bollinger. In 1973 Bollinger acquired majority ownership and since then, invested heavily to improve it.
The House of Langlois-Chateau was created in 1912 by Edouard Langlois and his wife Jeanne Chateau, with the house specialising in sparkling wines. Edouard was tragically killed in 1915 during WWI and subsequently awarded the Military Cross. Jeanne took over running the estate, aided later by her son and son-in-law. In 2007 the historical headquarters overlooking the Loire were significantly enlarged and upgraded, with all aspects of production moved there. The winery boasts state of the art pneumatic presses and temperature controlled tanks. There have also been significant changes and improvements made to the vineyards, with Langlois-Chateau one of the first estates to obtain the Terra Vitis label, a French benchmark for sustainable vineyard practices. The estate has 71ha of its own vineyards, located in Saumur and Sancerre, with around 60% of the estate’s production devoted to Crémant.
Langlois-Chateau imposes the same exacting standards as Bollinger’s best Champagnes.
The house’s reputation still rests predominantly on sparkling wine. Langlois-Chateau is one of only three estates in Saumur referred to by name in the Oxford Companion to Wine, “the quality of winemaking is high.”
The estate is a long-time supporter of both the French equestrian school in Saumur and the nearby Le Mans 24 hour classic (for car nuts).
These two wines receive the same attention to detail and are subject to the same exacting standards as Bollinger’s best Champagnes. Both see grapes picked by hand and pressed gently in state-of-the-art pneumatic presses. They are treated far beyond category standards and at the level of only the very top Champagne producers.
Langlois-Chateau Crémant de Loire Blanc Brut NV
This wine is a blend of 60% Chenin Blanc,20% Chardonnay and 20% Cabernet Franc, the fruit coming from 6 terroirs, with a predominance of chalky soil, as in Champagne.
The different parcels of fruit are kept separate (by variety and site) for the initial ferment. The blend is then assembled with 10% reserve wines (ie. older, more complex wines) and the second ferment in bottle, like Champagne. It then spends a minimum of 24 months maturing on lees (the dead yeast cells in the bottle) in the 6km of the estate’s freestone cellars.
The Chenin really gives this such a fresh, green apple crunch. Behind this crisp delicacy though, you’ll find unexpected complexity for a wine of this price.
“This is a round, mouth-filling sparkling wine with ripe flavours layered with grapefruit acidity and a tight, final texture that is crisp and mineral.”90 points, Wine Enthusiast.
“Langlois Chateau Crémant de Loire Brut NV Sparkling wine has vibrant and racy fruit, bready yeast flavours and zesty appley freshness, accompanied by the waxed lemony flavours of a Chenin Blanc. Fresh orchard-fruit aromas burst from the glass of this easy-drinking Chenin-Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay blend. In the mouth it's honeyed and balanced with an Old World feel. The Crémant de Loire Appellation is among the most demanding sparkling wine appellations in France. Under Bollinger, Langlois has further augmented the regulations to equal, and even exceed, those of Champagne.” Decanter Magazine.
Bollinger pedigree for a fraction of the price. This is great drinking.
It's on at Burnt Orange in Mosman for $65, if you're looking for the perfect lunch.
I can offer it for $29 a bottle Order online
Langlois-Chateau Crémant de Loire Rosé Brut NV
This wine is made from 100% Cabernet Franc sourced from vineyards in chalky-clay soils, well suited to the variety. The beautiful colour is achieved by a short (12-15 hour) contact with the red skins.
Only the first pressed juice is used and the initial ferment occurs in stainless steel to retain freshness. The second ferment occurs in bottle, like Champagne, with the wine spending a minimum of 18 months on lees (dead yeast cells) to add complexity and preserve freshness and colour.
Fresh, delicate and with delicious bright red berry fruit, this is a perfect wine for long summer afternoons.
“Light pink in colour, with an elegant nose of red fruit. Fresh, fruit and full-bodied in the mouth,”Winemaker notes.
Why don’t more people drink sparkling rosé? When it’s good like this it’s a joy.
Superb match for a feast at Fei Jai in Potts Point, where it's $69 a bottle.
I can offer it for $31 a bottle. Order online
Also, a few other fizzy options:
Who doesn't love a bit of Prosecco from a great producer?
Canella Prosecco 2015 - $27
And for a bit of New World brilliance check out this multi award-winning estate from Central Otago, NZ.
Akarua Rosé - $35
Akarua Brut NV - $35
Akarua Vintage 2011 - $53
But if only Champagne will do, this beautifully refined yet complex drop should suffice. Thienot NV - $65