This week's topic on #winechat was Champagne and unfortunately I was delinquent in purchasing a bottle. Fortunately I did have a sparkling wine available, and one from Bordeaux at that: the Cremant de Bordeaux "Cuvee de l'Abbaye". I never anticipated this region as a source of sparkling wine, but the wine cooperative Jaillance has impressed this family. Not only is the wine affordable ($18.99), made from two uncommon sparkling grapes (70% Semillon, 30% Cabernet Franc), but it completely fits our tastes in a sparkling wine. It's dry, yet fruity - mostly strawberry, with a slight creamy finish. Beautiful. Don't trust us? Well, all Jaillance wines are designated Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) - so they have the French stamp of approval.
After finishing the "Cuvee de l'Abbaye", we moved on to the Jaillance Clairette de Die Cuvee Imperiale. This wine is produced in Northern Rhone, specifically, in the Drôme Valley, Clairette de Die "appellation d’origine" (AOC). These wines must consist of 75% muscat and the remainder Clairette, then fermented using the "ancestral dioise process". This process was first utilized over 2,000 by the Gallic tribe, Voconces, who left jars of the wine in rivers over the winter and then recovered them in the spring. Today the grapes are cold fermented using modern equipment that more or less replicates a freezing river. Before fermentation ceases, the wines are bottled and the wine continues to ferment at a controlled 12 °C until the percent alcohol falls between 7 and 9%.
The first impression of the Clairette de Die Cuvee Imperiale is its popping floral aroma - made more intense by the 90% muscat. Because the fermentation process is intended to retain as much grape sugar as possible, this wine is slightly sweet. Not our general sugar preference, but in general we were very pleased with this sparkler. Its light, fresh apricot-peach flavors and the bubbles and low alcohol definitely balance the sugar. Still prefer the brut, but the Clairette de Die Cuvee Imperiale is a pleasant alternative.