Cremant de Loire is the regional appellation for sparkling wines from Anjou, Saumur and Touraine – the heartland of the Loire Valley wine region of France. The title was introduced in 1975 to provide France with a widely recognizable, high-quality Loire sparkling wine title, and to provide a reliable alternative to the increasingly expensive wines of Champagne. Cremant de Bourgogne was introduced in the same year, just before the arrival of Cremant d'Alsace.
Chenin Blanc is the principal ingredient in Cremant de Loire wines, although a wide array of other traditional Loire grape varieties may be used. These include the obvious choices of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but also Cabernet Franc, Pineau d'Aunis, Grolleau Noir and even Cabernet Sauvignon. The star grape of the upper Loire, Sauvignon Blanc, is a notable (and intentional) omission here. Despite its high acidity (effectively a prerequisite in quality sparkling wines) Loire Sauvignon is not thought to be well suited to sparkling wine production. Interestingly, though, the variety is not excluded from the sparkling wines of Bordeaux – Cremant de Bordeaux.
More than 100,000hL of Cremant de Loire is produced each year; the vast majority is white, with rose accounting for 10% of the output. In total, 3700 acres (1500ha) of vines are spread across the appellation's catchment area, although the majority of the wines are actually vinified in and around Saumur, the epicenter of sparkling wine production in the Loire.
A good Cremant de Loire has tight, persistent effervescence (a defining advantage of methode traditionelle wines over those made by other techniques such as the Charmat process), and a complex, nutty, gently honeyed nose. The use of Chenin Blanc in these wines is responsible for floral aromas than those found in Champagne, and are emphasized in those wines subject to extended lees contact (most Cremant spends at least 9 months in bottle during and following its secondary fermentation).