The Austin Chronicle

Looking for Champagne on a Budget?

By Wes Marshall, February 13, 2013, 11:45am, On the Range

The most romantic holiday of the year is upon us and wine aficionados everywhere will be looking for the one wine synonymous with love. The generic term most commonly used is Champagne, but that is incorrect. Champagne refers specifically to wines grown and made in a small area 90 miles east of Paris.

Because of its historical importance and its limited growing area, the wines bearing the name Champagne are usually pricey. Plus, there are winemakers all over France who believe they can make a nice sparkling wine, as well. The problem is what to call it? The word Champagne is protected, so the winemakers from other French areas (places like Burgundy, Alsace, Languedoc, or the Loire Valley) have been allowed the word Crémant. The good news is, since Crémants are less well known, they are much less expensive than Champagnes

If you are only going to uncork a few bottles of sparkling wine per year, a trusted retailer is vital. You certainly don’t want to waste any opportunities. Plus, they may have run across a really obscure masterpiece. However, most of the Crémants that make it to the U.S. are delicious drinks, so the chance of a real catastrophe is low.

There are a few easy to find brands worth looking for. One thing to keep in mind: Most Crémant makers release both white and rosé versions, and while the rosés are always harder to find, they are also sexier wines. Simonnet-Febvre’s Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé ($18) is a jolly wine for happy romantics, full of cherry and raspberry aromas. Paul Chollet’s Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé ($17) adds cinnamon aromas. If rosé isn’t your thing, consider François Baur’s Crémant d’Alsace, a biodynamic wine made from the region’s glorious Pinot Blanc grape. Finally, Coté Mas Estate Cremant de Limoux is new to Austin, but their winemaker, Jean-Claude Mas, has already proven his a genius with medium-priced wines, particularly his superior Picpoul de Pinet.

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