I have no doubt that someone has calculated how much sparkling wine will be consumed on Valentine’s Day, but let’s just round things off and say that it will be an ocean of bubbly. I can’t think of a wine-growing country or region that doesn’t produce sparkling wine, and that’s the point: The choices are almost infinite and the prices are as expensive or as modest as you want them to be.
With that in mind, let’s remind ourselves that there is really good bubbly out there for not much money at all. Of course, there is always Champagne. But there is also everything else, and these days, “everything else” can be amazingly good. The more you learn about France’s “other” sparkling wines, the more you realize how satisfying they can be.
One of them is Jean-Claude Mas’s “Côté Mas” Crémant de Limoux Brut from Languedoc in southwest France. This delicious and refreshing estate-bottled sparkler, or crémant, is from St. Hilaire in the Limoux appellation, where sparkling wine production predates that of Champagne. They’ve been at it since 1531, and with a mere 486 years of experience, you would expect them to churn out something quite drinkable. They do, and more, and for all of $15.
The blend is dominated by Chardonnay, along with Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Mauzac, the region’s indigenous variety. The overall impression is bright and uplifting, with fine bubbles, lemon-lime, subtle yeast and floral notes, and minerals on the long finish. The wine over-delivers and is a great way to start of your Valentine’s evening – or just about any evening.
There are all manner of crémants out there, from Crémant de Limoux to Crémant d’Alsace, Crémant de Bourgogne to Crémant de Bordeaux. You’ll find many, if not most, under $20. Best of all, they will expand your horizons when it comes to sparkling wine.