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Discovering Comte de Ferrand, Blanc de Blancs, French Sparkling Wine

comte de ferrand smallComte de Ferrand Blanc de Blancs French sparkling wine is a great find for us at Bordeaux Undiscovered. It’s made by the Société des Vins Mousseux which is part of one of the great negotiant houses of Bordeaux Grands Vins de Gironde (GVG).

It was founded in 1820 by Baron Alfred de Luze, Grand Duke of Hessen. The Baron came from a noble family in Saintonge (in the département Charente Maritime, just north of Bordeaux, which is famous for its production of Cognac and Pineau des Charentes). He settled in Bordeaux and became a pioneer in developing imports and exports of Bordeaux wines. His negotiant house expanded over the years and purchased several chateaux (including Chateaux Paveil de Luze in Margaux and Chateau Mallaret in Haut Medoc).ferrand 1

Today, based in the Domaine de Ribet at Saint Loubes, the Société des Vins Mousseux (SVM) is one of the leading companies exclusively producing quality sparkling wines. In 2011 GVG and SVM were purchased by Borie Manoux, chaired by Philippe Casteja, whose family own several prestigious chateaux including Chateau Trotte Vielle (Premier Grand Cru Classé Saint Emilion) and Chateau Batailley (5th Growth Pauillac).

Comte de Ferrand is made by the Méthode Cuvée Close or Charmat Method (Méthode Charmat) which was developed by the French scientist Jean Eugene Charmat at the University of Montpellier in 1907.

gvgInstead of using individual bottles to produce the secondary fermentation, he invented the glass-lined tank. His son continued his work and created the wine Veuve de Vernay, named after the widow (Veuve) from Vernay, who helped his father start up in business. The Société des Vins Mousseux was founded in 1908, a year after the Charmat Method was developed.

Made from Ugni Blanc grapes – also known as Trebbiano in Italy – Comte dugni blance Ferrand is a Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine (which means literally ‘white [wine] from white [grapes]‘). It’s thought that Ugni Blanc was brought to France in the 1300s when successive Popes resided at Avignon rather than in Rome. Ugni Blanc’s name comes from the old French Occitan ‘Unia’ which is derived from the Latin name ‘Eugenia’ (meaning ‘noble’ or ‘well born’) but it has lots of synonyms in Bordeaux – ‘Saint Emilion’ being one of them.

cremant 1Comte de Ferrand (£8.99, abv 11%) is fresh and clean with nicely balanced acidity and no sharp edges. In the mouth it’s bursting with soft fresh fruits with a good mousse. With delicate floral aromas of magnolia and jasmine and flavours of white peach, quince and very subtle hints of mandarin orange and apricot, this really is a charming wine. It’s the perfect fizz for a party with your guests thinking it is Champagne; ideal for a refreshing glass of bubbly and a perfect partner for a variety of meals including spicy dishes such as Indian and Thai. It will compliment fish, seafood, salads and delicate white meat recipes. I am sure you will not be disappointed. This lovely wine I believe knocks spots off similar level wines at this unbelievable price.

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5 Responses to Discovering Comte de Ferrand, Blanc de Blancs, French Sparkling Wine

  1. zeldasydney says:

    Hi Nick,

    Super-informative and interesting; THANKS as always.

    So it’s officially a Mousseux and not called a Cremant because it’s made by Charmat Method? (Was very surprised that it’s not Traditional Method!) Would this be a type of producer to work with lees in the tank? Or they want only the clean, fresh flavours you describe?

    Secondly, I’m confused on the price, which seems a little high even though you clearly expressed that it’s a bargain for the quality: How does a Charmat-made sparkler justify a higher price than lots of traditionally made sparklers (I get the impression that Cava is a four-letter word in the UK)? Just because of Bordeaux provenance? Sorry, I’m in SUCH a different market than yours, with such a different type of government-imposed markup ON TOP of import- and agents’ fees, that my perspective on cost may be very screwy.

    Cheers,
    Zelda

    • Nick says:

      Hi Zelda, yes you are right that it can not be called a ‘Cremant’ as it is not made by this ‘Method’ but by the Charmat Method. By ‘traditional method’ do you mean the Champagne Method – only Champagnes can be made this way… There are around 6 AOCs in France for Cremants: Cremant d’Alsace, Loire, Bordeaux, Bourgogne (Burgundy), Jura, de Die and Limoux. At the end of the day the Charmat method is over 100 years old so its not a new process. Sparkling wines start off being made much the same way as still wines (ie pressed and made on the lees) but they differ in that they then undergo a Secondary Fermentation. There are a few ways (Methods) this is done – sometimes in the bottle and sometimes in a closed tank (Charmat Mehtod or sometimes called Closed Method).

      As with most wines there are good and not so good Cremants and Mousseux sparkling wines out there – this is a particularly good one, hence its price. Cava is very popular in the UK and not a four letter word ;-) but I prefer French sparkling wines, hence my focus on them. I think they are very good value for money and can often out perform Champagnes if you choose the right ones.

      Hope this has helped :-)

      Cheers

      Nick

      • Nick says:

        PS Zelda – the sparkling wine Blanquette de Limoux is said to be even older than Champagne and some folks say that the British invented bubbly anyway > It was a 17th century cider maker from Gloucester who first came up with the idea. Christopher Merrett not only devi­sed the method of fermentation which gives champagne its sparkle. He also invented the stronger glass needed to stop the bottles exploding under pressure. Merrett delivered a paper to the Royal Society in London in 1632 setting out his discovery. And that was six years before Dom Perignon, the French monk generally credited with inventing champagne, was even born. The first champagne house was not founded in France until 1729 – almost 100 years after!

        Cheers

        Nick

  2. zeldaysydney says:

    Hi Nick,

    Thanks for reply! I’m not sure if it’s unfair, but WSET education certainly leaves students on this side of the pond with the lasting belief that sparkling quality is best made by Traditional Method (time on lees, yeasty flavours, etc); followed by Charmat/Cuve Close; and finally by crappy, straight CO2 infusion. Hence my ‘student’ surprise that a classic BDX producer would choose Charmat method over Traditional. And with Ugni Blanc, no less. Loved the post — you gave me some new insights on the BDX marketplace.

  3. zeldaysydney says:

    PS, Nick, This Mousseux sounds lovely and delicious and reminds me of the VARIETY you have in your market (and your shop) in the UK that we lack in my market here in British Columbia, Canada.