Over the past few years we have become a nation of sparkling wine drinkers. The UK has long been one of Champagne’s biggest markets.
But for many the King of Fizz was reserved mainly for weddings and birthdays and indeed Champagne sales have actually fallen in the past 12 months.
English sparkling wine has been enjoying huge success as consumers wake up to the delights of home-grown fizz and it has become a major presence on restaurant lists and supermarket shelves.
But it is the rise and rise of prosecco, with its gentler price and drink-me-now style which has, in many ways, changed the market entirely with sales of sparkling wines as a whole doubling since 2012.
But is the prosecco bubble about to burst? Sales are beginning to slow down and a recent report put this down to overexposure and overstocking at supermarkets.
So, what’s next? The answer would appear to be French crémant, the little, less well-known, brother of Champagne, with sales at Waitrose up more than 70 per cent in 2017 on the previous year.
Crémant can be produced in seven specific regions across France, including the Loire, Burgundy and Alsace. Although the grape varieties used may vary from region to region, the method of production is the same as in Champagne, where the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle.
Prices are higher than prosecco but less than Champagne, allowing consumers to trade up without having to reach the heady heights of Champagne.
Crémant de Loire is one of these styles which is worth seeking out, with chenin blanc often being the common component. These wines not only make good aperitifs and party wines but also some interesting food pairings, particularly with seafood such as oysters and crab.
Prince Alexandre Crémant de Loire (Waitrose £9.69 on offer from £12.99 until August 28) is a good place to start, made from a blend of chenin blanc, chardonnay and cabernet franc.
It’s quite elegant with a fine bead of tiny bubbles, notes of pear, apple and a little honey on the nose followed by a fresh palate with lively acidity and a nice clean finish.
It’s very good value while on offer and would make a lovely late summer garden party wine.
Abbesse de Loire Crémant de Loire Rosé (Laithwaites.co.uk £13.99) is made mainly from cabernet franc and is a very pretty, pale pink colour.
The bouquet is very reminiscent of an English summer with red berries and a little blackcurrant, followed by citrus and soft strawberry fruits on the palate, crisp acidity and a nice mouth filling finish. Another lovely aperitif but you could also pair this with a bowl of strawberries to finish a meal.
If I had a wine of the week it would be L’Extra par Langlois Brut NV Crémant de Loire (Majestic £13.99 but £10.99 if part of a mixed six) made by Langlois-Chateau who are owned by Champagne Bollinger – and the quality shows.
This is all about orchard fruit with pears and apples on the nose with just a touch of honey, this follows through on to the palate with fresh, zesty acidity and good length.
This is one for a plate of oysters or some local Hampshire smoked trout.