From £17.50 for the Réserve Privée and €13.99, $19.95 for the Réserve
When was the last time you bought a bottle of Crémant de Bourgogne? No, I don't remember either. Crémant de Bourgogne, like other French Crémants, is popular locally but doesn't really have the power, or volume, of brands such Champagne, Cava or Prosecco to be a strong player further afield.
Champagne production in 2013 was 349 million bottles; Cava's total was a modest 241 million; and in the same year the production of Crémant de Bourgogne, according to Pierre du Couëdic of the Union des Producteurs et Élaborateurs de Crémant de Bourgogne (UPECB), reached 146,166 hl, equivalent to about 19.5 million bottles, of which 5.4 million bottles were exported, primarily to the US (1.26 m), Sweden (1.14 m) and Germany (58.5 m). A little more than 153,000 bottles found their way to the UK. However, a recent article from a French drinks news site, V&S News, summarised in PR company Sopexa's French Wines Bulletin, reported an overall 5% increase in Crémant sales generally in 2013 compared with 2012.
Originally made exclusively for the family, Albert Bichot Réserve Privée Brut NV Crémant de Bourgogne may be small in quantity (annual production 6,000 bottles) but it is big in both flavour and value for money. I first tasted it almost a year ago in London at Bichot's 2012 burgundy primeur tasting, where this wine was presented almost as an afterthought, or so it seemed since it was not even included on the tasting sheet – more of a parting refresher or reward for those who had tasted all the still red and white 2012s. At last this delicious and keenly priced wine has crossed the Channel and is available in the UK chez Oddbins. I was told initially that it was also available in the United States via Albert Bichot US but apparently this was more wish than reality, although their standard Albert Bichot Réserve Brut NV Crémant de Bourgogne (see below) is, according to wine-searcher.com, much more widely available around the world.
The Réserve Privée is 100% Chardonnay and probably owes its depth of flavour to the fact that the blend comprises one third vin de réserve (ie older wines), one-third from the 2010 vintage and one-third 2011. When the wine was first bottled in April 2012 it had spent a minimum of 15 months on the lees but the later bottlings will have spent up to 30 months on the lees, adding depth and complexity. The dosage is 7 g/l but the richness of this wine seems to owe more to the fruit than to any added sweetness.
A year ago I described the wine as follows: 'Lovely nutty aroma. Yeasty and lightly honeyed. Deep and creamy and wonderfully fresh. Excellent length and depth. Fills the mouth but leaves it fresh.' And as very good value. Tasting it more recently, the wine was equally impressive: 'Lovely creamy citrus aroma with a gentle notes of bread and nuts. Fine richness in the mouth, lemon, maybe peach?, and a touch of savoury deliciousness. Quite complex. Crisply fresh, not at all austere, just off dry. Correct but unremarkable mousse. Long and satisfying, nutty finish. A caressing sort of fizz and amazing price:quality ratio.' On both occasions I scored it 17 out of 20.
Sadly the wine is available only in the UK, chez the renascent Oddbins, in one or two places in Spain, where it is imported by a small deli and cheese company called Quesos de Autor that also distributes wine, and it is imported into Germany by Bourgogne Weinimport, Hubertus Kessler and Weinhaus Linsel. However, the more easily found and straightforward Albert Bichot Réserve Brut NV is also great value. Tasting at the end of 2013, I described it as: 'Delicious fizz that would give many a champagne a run for its money. Fresh but not simple, with a cedary creamy freshness. Dry but not too dry.' If you cannot find the Réserve Privée yet, then whet your appetite with its younger sibling.