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Baron de Hoen Crémant d’Alsace Prestige Blanc de Blancs NV, Alsace
Cost: $17-19
I f you say sparkling wine most people think Champagne. It’s the most famous, most desired and most expensive.
I love Champagne, but I can’t afford to drink it every day. No worries. There are many less expensive alternatives. One of my favorites is Cremant d’Alsace.
This is sparkling wine from the eastern French region of Alsace, made in the same method as Champagne. Cremant d’Alsace is growing in popularity, and for good reason. It is a festive wine, pairs well with food and is relatively inexpensive.
The Baron de Hoen Cremant has a beautiful bright straw color, with lots of small bubbles. Aromas of citrus, spice and green apples lead to lemon, orange and almonds on the palate. This medium-bodied wine finishes with a delicious crisp acidity.
This is a wine you can start drinking before dinner and stay with through dessert. I like it much better with food than as a sipper by itself.
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I have loved Cremant d’Alsace by various producers for 30 years, since I first tasted it on a wine trip through France and Germany. Back then the dollar was strong and we were able to buy the wine for the equivalent of $5 a bottle. Accounting for inflation and changes in the value of the dollar you can see Cremant d’Alsace has remained a bargain.
The minerality of this wine is typical of Alsatian wines. From Riesling to Gewurtztraminer to Pinot Blanc, nearly all Alsace wines are known for the crisp mineral characteristics. More than 90 percent of Alsace wines are from white grape varieties because they are easier to get ripe in that climate.
About 22 percent of Alsace wines are sparkling, and some of those are Rosé wines. I recently have had a couple of those, and they are beautiful and lush, with bright red berry fruit flavors.
Grapes used for the Cremant are picked early in the harvest, when they are at their freshest and loaded with palate-cleansing acidity. Grapes can be Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Auxxerois, Riesling and Chardonnay. The Baron de Hoen is made from 100 percent Pinot Blanc grapes.
Alsace has gone from France to Germany and back again several times after various wars, so the wine and food have been influenced by both cultures. We wine drinkers benefit from this.
When I visited in 1984 I enjoyed the local delicacy called choucroute, which is a plate of sauerkraut and pork or sausages. It was terrific with the local beer and the local wine, especially the Cremant. I found the same basic dish in the regional capital of Strasbourg, in Colmar and in Riquewihr.
Because of the German influence Alsace is the only AOC wine region in France to release varietally labelled wines. And most of those varieties are typical of Germany rather than France.
But the method of making Cremant is all French, with vat fermentation followed by secondary fermentation in the bottle.
 
Winery: Baren de Hoen is the brand name of Cave de Beblenheim, a consortium of 150 wine growers with 620 acres in seven villages. The Cave de Beblenheim was established in 1952, and within two years they had won their first gold medal.
The group has obtained ISO 9001 quality certification and encourages sustainable practices. It exports about 35 percent of its production, mainly to the Netherlands,
Great Britain, Switzerland, Belgium, the United States, Germany, and some to Canada and Russia.
The winery is in the village of Beblenheim, a few miles from Rqiuewihr along the Rhine River in the heart of Alsace. It has a tasting room open March-December.
Sparkling wine has been made in the area since at least the late 19th Century. The traditional methods were passed down for generations until the creation of AOC Cremant d’Alsace in 1976. This applied the strict standards of wine making used in Champagne, allowing the region to produce more high-quality wine.
Today, more than 500 producers have joined the Syndicate of Producers of Crémant d’Alsace.
Baron de Hoen Cremant d'Alsace with grilled chicken, rice, tomatoes.
Baron de Hoen Cremant d’Alsace with grilled chicken, rice, tomatoes.
Goes with: We drank this with friends while eating two kinds of chicken on the grill. One was a beer can chick, except I used white wine and herbs instead of beer, and the other was a whole chicken cut down the back and flattened out on the grill. It was covered with a nice dry rub.
Both chickens were juicy and tasty, full of flavors from the seasoning. The Cremant d’Alsace was a perfect pairing, as the crisp acid and mineral flavors mixed with the chicken. We also had wild rice and tomatoes picked from the garden.
Chickens on the grill.
Chickens on the grill.

You could serve this wine with a variety of dishes, from seafood and poultry to asian food, Latin food or dessert. Serve it well-chilled.

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