If it isn’t Champagne, what do you call it? In France, the term used to denote a sparkling wine other than Champagne is Crémant. The 2010 Crémant de Bourgogne Perle de Roche from Domaine Sainte Barbe is therefore technically not a Champagne but you’d be hard pressed to know that if given a glass to taste blind.
Just like in Champagne, Domaine Sainte Barbe has the wine go through secondary fermentation in the bottle. This is called Méthode Traditionnelle. The darling monk, Dom Perignon, is erroneously credited for discovering this technique of making still wine into sparkling wine. The transformation of still into sparkling wine was less of a sudden discovery and more like a drawn-out process that evolved over a long time period. At any rate, Domaine Sainte Barbe’s winemaker, Jean-Marie Chaland, uses 100% Chardonnay, a blanc de blancs as it were, from two parcels: one in Mâcon and the other from the lieux-dit, La Verchère, in Viré-Clessé. The Chardonnay grapes are grown on clay and limestone soils, lending an especially minerally quality to the wine.
Jean-Marie takes further care by leaving the wine en tirage for a good long time, and in the case of the 2010 vintage, the wine sat on the lees for 30 months before disgorgement. Chaland’s 2010 Cremant de Bourgogne is rather dry, he uses only 4 grams of sugar per liter, which is low even for Champagne standards. It is a sparkling wine for Rock Heads – the affectionate term used for wine drinkers who have an affinity for mineral-driven, steely wines. At the store, we call Domaine Sainte Barbe’s Crèmant de Bourgogne, the Poor Man’s Les Mesnil because of that distinctive, crisp, sleek finish.
No need to twist my arm, I gladly embrace the tradition of drinking a glass – or two- of bubbly this time of year. Of course, I don’t usually need any encouragement to drink it as I adhere to the Lily Bollinger way of thinking (“I only drink Champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I am alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when am. Otherwise, I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.”LB)
On Christmas Day, after the wrapping paper and boxes were gathered and put into the refuse bins and we finished a couple cycles of The Christmas Story marathon, I was ready for a celebratory glass of bubbly. The 2010 Crèmant de Bourgogne was right on target with the slightly nutty nose and sleek finish. One sip pushed aside all earthly cares, helping me languish in the moment.
For New Year’s Eve, I’ll be arming myself with a couple of bottles of Sainte Barbe’s Crèmant de Bourgogne to take to a house party. The price makes it doable. It doesn’t hurt either that the package is elegant, but ultimately it is the quality in the bottle that will impress and so no one will be the wiser that I did not have to over-pay for mediocre Champagne.
In anticipation of the new year, I would like to wish all of you a healthy, joyous, and prosperous 2015!