An Aperitif with Flair – Crémant de Bourgogne and Amuse-Bouche

When we’re ready to celebrate, pour Crémant, a very special style of sparkling wine produced in France. Just hearing the pop of the cork from a bottle gives me joy and once I start sipping, my palate feels the same way. Holiday bubbles? Mais oui!

What is Crémant? Although Crémant is produced in the same manner as Champagne (the second fermentation occurs in the bottle known as méthode champenoise), crémant refers to sparkling wine that’s not actually made in the Champagne region. Instead, we can find these wines in seven regions of France: Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant de Die, Crémant du Jura, Crémant de Limoux, Crémant d’Alsace, Crémant de Loire, and Crémant de Bourgogne. In fact, Crémant d’Alsace produces more of the style of sparkling wine than the others – more than 50%. 

Each region has its own production rules and regulations but they do have commonalities such as rules about hand-harvesting, limits of dosage and amount of ageing. Unlike Champagne where three grape varieties (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier) are allowed, the various regions have permitted more than the classic Champagne grapes to be used.

The word Crémant also means “creamy” in French. Not as bubbly as Champagne, Crémant feels creamy on the palate. Its texture is soft and more like velvet thanks to the fact that the amount of atmospheric pressure during the production process is less. This month, the #winophiles, a group of wine writers who adore French wine, food and travel, are celebrating the holidays with a bottle of chilled Crémant. Hopefully, you’ll find the links to their articles below and mine, of course, inspiring for your holiday gatherings. 

Crémant de Bourgogne

With so many regions from which to choose that celebratory bottle, I selected Crémant de Bourgogne, a sparkling wine that I enjoyed daily during my recent trip to Bourgogne. Daily? Most definitely! Crémant de Bourgogne was poured as an aperitif before each lunch and dinner and served with an array of amuse-bouches, small bites rife with flavor and beauty. Wherever I dined, these tantalizing tidbits meant to “awaken the palate,” were perfectly formed with vibrant colors and always served as a conversation starter. Each day I anticipated this aperitif of Crémant de Bourgogne and tiny bites of flair before I even entered the restaurant!

About Crémant de Bourgogne, though…

The appellation began in 1975 and is now considered Bourgogne’s “third wine” after the region’s whites and reds. Rules to which the vignerons in Bourgogne must adhere include manual harvesting in whole bunches, the use of perforated crates to eliminate juice produced by the crushing during transport at harvest, control tasting of the base wines and second approval tasting. Limited pressing (150 kg of fruit to produce 100 liters of must) is obligatory as is ageing on laths (pieces of wood that fit in between the bottles) for at least 12 months. 

Crémant de Bourgogne has become so popular that it comprises 11% of production in the region. One of my favorite wines was Domaine Michel Prunier et Fille, Crémant de Bourgogne Brut (…). A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Aligoté, this vibrant sparkler was flavorful with notes of citrus, stone fruit and minerality and offered fine bubbles from the first pour to the last lingering sip. The Domaine was the first stop of the week and I was enthralled with the owners, their wines and the backstory. Domaine Michel Prunier et Fille is in its 5th generation, with Estelle, the daughter of Michel Prunier holding the reins. They’ve worked together for over 15 years and when I met both at their winery, it was obvious that their passion for quality and tradition is found in each wine produced. I tasted their Crémant de Bourgogne Brut in the Domaine’s tasting room and again the final night of the trip with my wine colleague. Impressive to say the least. The Domaine is located in Auxey-Duresses and was founded in 1968 when Michel Prunier and his wife purchased plots of vines each had inherited from their families. Subsequently, they planted more vines in parcels nearby to add to the vineyard area and built the working facilities still used today.

In 2004 , Estelle joined her father and currently, the family manages 24 parcels covering 12 hectares of vines in six villages: Auxey-Duresses, Meursault, Volnay, Pommard, Beaune et Chorey-les-Beaune. 17 different appellation wines are available and from personal experience, each is an exceptional representation of its terroir. 

Crémant de Bourgogne and Amuse-Bouche

Even now, my mouth is watering with thoughts of Crémant de Bourgogne as an aperitif and any form of amuse-bouche. Whether I tasted fresh caviar on crostini, small shrimp, warm croquettes, grilled vegetables or herbed risotto in Bourgogne, a glass of Crémant de Bourgogne was a magnificent accompaniment. The amuse-bouche I continue to crave, however, are gougères. These airy, cheesy, puffs of deliciousness were those I’ve actually made since I’ve returned home and will continue to do so! With each sip of Crémant de Bourgogne and bite of gougères, I fondly remember my fascinating experiences in Bourgogne.