Whilst Prosecco soars in popularity, are we missing out on what is right in front of us? High quality French sparkling wine is one of the best bubblies you can buy; and it’s well worth discovering . . .
French sparkling wine ranks among the best of its breed; it has an impressive pedigree, stunning quality and a dazzling reputation to boot. Centuries of perfecting wine making techniques have certainly paid off. So why do many lovely French sparklers fall under our radar? Perhaps it is because they are over shadowed by the huge importance of Champagne?
Many French sparkling wines can rival some of the cheaper Champagnes on the market and deserve more recognition.
Beyond the great wine making region of Champagne sparkling wine flourishes in France. In fact, Champagne is a new comer to the world of sparkling wine. The fabled monk Dom Perignon (1638 – 1715) was not the first to discover the process of making fizz and his famous quote ‘Come quickly, I am drinking the stars’ is more of a marketing gimmick cooked up in the 19th century. There are older claimants to the title of ‘the first sparkling wine in the world’. Blanquette de Limoux comes from the Pyrenean foothills just south of Carcassonne and pre-dates the making of Champagne by about 150 years. Local folk lore says that Dom Perignon was a monk here before moving to the Champagne region and took the secret with him.
Known as Vins Mousseux, these sparkling wines are well worth exploring.
Up and down France, in pockets of land around historic cities, there are long established sparkling wine producers quietly making beautiful bubblies that are snapped up by the French.
Not all Vins Mousseux in France are made under an AOC; below are a few of the well known appellations:
Blanquette de Limoux (Languedoc Roussillon)
Clairette de Die (Rhone Valley)
Saumur (Loire Valley)
Gaillac (South West)
Saint Peray (Rhone Valley)
Vouvray (Loire Valley)
Montlouis (Loire Valley)
Styles of Vins Mousseux
1. Brut Nature or Brut Zero – Bone Dry
2. Extra Brut – Very Dry
3. Brut – Dry
4. Extra Sec – Dry to Medium Dry
5. Sec – Medium (Semi) Dry
6. Demi Sec – Medium (Semi) Sweet
7. Doux – Sweet
Methods of Production:
1. Champagne Method (Methode Champenoise or Traditionnelle) – Secondary fermentation in bottle
2. Charmat Method (Methode Charmat or Cuvee Close) – Secondary fermentation in a pressurized vat
My Recommended Vins Mousseux
Duc de Berieu is a lovely example of high quality Vins Mousseux being made in France today. It’s made by Grande Vins de Gironde (GVG) who are owners of several renowned chateaux in Bordeaux but who also specialise in sparkling wine. Duc de Berieu is made from the Ugni Blanc grape, which is the French name for Trebbiano. The name Ugni Blanc holds the key to this grape, it’s derived from the old French name ‘Unia’ which comes from the Latin ‘Eugenia, meaning ‘noble’ and the grape is an unsung hero when it comes to sparkling wines. Especially if they are well crafted by experts such as GVG.
Lovely light bodied sparkling wine with subtle flavours of apricot, ripe peach and fresh cut lime lifted by heady floral notes of orange and almond blossom. Beautifully balanced acidity and a soft exuberant mousse of fine bubbles. Clean, crisp and full of charm.
Food and Wine Pairing:
A gorgeous glassful at parties, Duc de Berieu Brut is light, refreshing and stylish. It’s great with seafood and starters, salty foods such as salami, prosciutto and feta cheese, creamy pastas, poultry, spicy and fragrant Chinese cuisine and sweet pastries.
Duc de Berieu Demi Sec is aged on the lees to give it unique aromatic structure and depth.
Delicious delicate flavours of ripe peach, pear and almonds with lovely floral notes of acacia flowers and subtle sweet anise. Beautifully balanced acidity and a fizzy foam of soft bubbles.
Food and Wine Pairing:
The medium sweet Duc de Berieu is a fabulous food wine. It’s great with nibbles – antipasto and tapas and spicy Indian food. Try it with sushi, rich oily fish such as smoked salmon and mackerel, creamy pastas and soups, poultry and pâté.