For years, one of my very favorite wine and cocktail bars in the world, In Fine Spirits, stood just down the street from my home. Unfortunately, it transformed itself into a fine-dining restaurant, which then proceeded to fail. The neighborhood never quite forgave the popular In Fine Spirits for jilting it (thankfully, the excellent In Fine Spirits shop remains open).
I greatly missed having a wine bar within easy walking distance, and so it was with no small amount of pleasure that I discovered L’Étage, occupying a cozy space directly above where In Fine Spirits met its untimely demise. Its by-the-glass wine list isn’t nearly as ambitious, restricting itself to “French” and “Domestic” selections, but it contains a few unusual gems, including a refreshing Domaine Giachino Jacquère from Savoie, redolent of vanilla, green apples and lime.
But since I had already written about the Domaine Giachino in this post, my attention turned to another odd duck, a Château Moncontour Crémant de Loire Brut Rosé. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d seen a rosé Crémant de Loire — most versions of this French sparkling wine are made primarily with Chenin Blanc, but in this case, Cabernet Franc dominated. The idea of a sparkling Cabernet Franc fascinated me, and I couldn’t wait to give it a try.
I didn’t realize at the time that I was taking a bit of a gamble. According to The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia, more and more sparkling Cabernet Francs from the Loire are showing well, “However, the aggressive potential of this grape can quickly turn a thrilling raspberry-flavored fizz into something hideous.” Cabernet Franc is infamous, after all, for a tendency towards herbaceousness. Fortunately, L’Étage did not attempt to foist the equivalent of a glass of bubbly green peppers on me.
A flute came filled to the brim with the watermelon-colored Château Moncontour, and it lacked any bouquet whatsoever. It wasn’t until I took a few sips, giving it some room to breathe in the glass, that I discovered how aromatic this crémant actually was (not that I’m one to complain about an overfilled glass). Once I could actually smell it, I found the notes of red fruit and yeast enticing.
The bubbles erred on the foamy side, but their tiny size made them feel elegant nevertheless. It started off quite dry, moving to tart acids and a finish of rich, red fruit. It tasted perfectly delightful on its own, but paired with some duck rillettes topped with grainy mustard, the jammy notes became even more deliciously pronounced.
The Château Moncontour Crémant de Loire Brut Rosé would make a fine aperitif or an excellent mate with a range of food. The Sotheby’s Wine Encylopedia makes me hesitant to recommend picking up any old rosé Crémant de Loire that you find, but if you do happen to come across one that your local wine shop recommends, don’t hesitate to give it a try. It’s perfect for a party, because it will satisfy guests who require sweet wine as well as those who demand something dry.
Thanks to L’Étage for introducing me to this festive sparkler, and welcome to the neighborhood!
NV Château Moncontour Crémant de Loire Brut Rosé: Festive but elegant, with a dry start and a jammy finish. Tasty on its own, but even better paired with poultry (pork, light pastas and many Asian dishes should also work well). Serve well-chilled.
Find It: I paid $9 for a glass at L’Étage. Wine Searcher listed two retailers selling the wine, each charging about $15 per bottle.