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Monday november 24 2014

Crémant de Savoie: France’s youngest Crémant is not about to flood the market


“Traditionally, Savoy has always produced sparkling wines, both traditional method and semi-sparkling,” claims Michel Quénard, chairman of the Savoy wine growers’ organisation when questioned about the motives for releasing the new wine. He expounds further: “We are not looking to imitate other French Crémants but to forge our own identity. INAO’s recognition of Crémant de Savoie represents an endorsement of the quality and unique characteristics of our wines…” Typicity will stem from the range of grape varieties defined in legal specifications for the new Crémant: at least 60% of the varietal range for the base wines must comprise local grape varieties Jacquère and Altesse, though the percentage can be increased to 100%. Jacquère must also account for at least 40% of varietal content. “The variety imparts freshness, unmistakable lightness, finesse and quality bubbles, enabling us to produce elegant wines that meet consumer expectations,” argues Michel Quénard.


2014 is the maiden vintage for Crémant de Savoie produced by Savoy wine growers and co-operative wineries. With the exception of the ‘Ayze’ and ‘Seyssel’ techniques, traditional methods for semi-sparkling wines are now banned. “The primary changes and restrictions introduced by the new specifications occur during the harvest,” explains the organisation chairman. Grapes must now be picked by hand and placed in perforated crates to safeguard the quality of the fruit. The growers’ organisation has also made it compulsory for growers to earmark the specific plots that will be used for producing Crémant in the March before the harvest. “The increase in overheads caused by the new rules should be offset by the small rise in permitted yields and better pricing – prices will range from approximately €6.5-8 a bottle at retail level,” states Michel Quénard. The new Crémant should also provide an alternative for the Jacquère grape variety which as a still wine is struggling to achieve decent price levels. 


In volume terms, the growers’ organisation is aiming to double production compared with current volumes of traditional method AC sparkling wines and semi-sparkling wines. If this is confirmed, the share of sparkling wine produced in Savoy would rise from 4% of the region’s overall output, equivalent to approximately 5,000 hl, to 8% or 10,000 hl, translating to 1.3 million bottles. “We are not about to flood the Crémant market!” quips Michel Quénard. The target volume will certainly not be met this year: low inventories of still wines after a small crop in 2013, compounded by uncertainty over the new appellation last March when growers had to decide whether to earmark certain plots for sparkling wines, has meant that growers were cautious over hectareage set aside for the new category. Total production in 2014 is therefore not likely to exceed 5,000 hl, equivalent to 600,000 bottles.


A decree is due to be published by December, officially recognising the new appellation. If “all goes well”, it should be backdated to the 2014 harvest. As producers have to comply with a minimum ageing period of 12 months after bottling (December 2014), the first bottles labelled Crémant de Savoie will not be released until December 2015. “We aim to market the wines regionally and nationwide, as well as in export markets to countries such as the United States and Asia,” points out Michel Quénard. The release will be supported by a marketing campaign rolled out by the wine marketing board. 


Photo Credit: CIVS