Wine writers nag that we should drink bubbles whenever we please, but most of us please to do so during the holidays and for other celebrations. The holidays are upon us, and as Champagne prices have increased without remorse in recent years, it is certainly wise to seek alternatives.
Faire la Fête Brut ($18) is an alternative worthy of your consideration. Like Champagne, it comes from France, but from hillside vineyards in the Southwest near Spain. Like Champagne, the wine is a blend of Chardonnay (70%) and Pinot Noir (10%), but with Chenin Blanc (20%) in the mix rather than Champagne's Pinot Meunier. The wine is made in the same manner as Champagne. In fact, Limoux claims to be the birthplace of sparkling wine because the secondary fermentation, which produces the fizz inside each bottle, was invented there.
The principal differences, then, are climate, soil and price. As for climate, the Southwest is certainly warmer than Champagne, though this Crémant still weighs in at a mere 12% alcohol. As for soil, Limoux claims to have both chalky clay marl (similar to Champagne) as well as limestone soils (similar to Burgundy). Price? Well, good luck finding a Champagne anywhere close to $18/bottle.
One more important difference is taste. No one familiar with sparkling wines who is paying attention would mistake this wine for a Champagne. Not because it is not good, but because it tastes different. Generally I would expect a more full-bodied wine to emerge from a warmer climate, but a good many Champagnes have more weight and body than this. This wine is delicate and pretty. It has hints of yeastiness (think fresh bread), is floral but not perfumey, and has a suggestion of lime/citrus. It is crisp and refreshing, and would serve well anywhere you would use a Champagne--on its own for celebratory sipping, or with appetizers ranging from toasted nuts to caviar.
It may not astonish with its finesse, but I have found still less finesse in Champagnes retailing for triple the price.
Many people present sparkling wine as a gift, and this wine would make a fine one. The packaging is quite attractive, with the pale lavender foil playing brilliantly off the bright green label. And no one will be disappointed with the contents.
At $18, this is a bargain in French sparkling wine. Though different than Champagne, it tastes great, and has more in common with its more expensive cousin than do most wines from Prosecco, Cava, or elsewhere.
This wine was provided by a marketing agent for the producer.