California Cremant?

With all the uproar over Korbel “champagne” being poured at Monday’s inauguration, it’s time to wonder aloud whether sparkling wine from California needs a term of its own. Other French bubblies are known as crémant, Spain has cava, Germany has Sekt, even England has Britagne.

“Sparkling wine” is incredibly anodyne as a term. Given all the marketing geniuses that we have in this country, you’d think we could come up with a name of our own. Maybe French it up with a term like “California Crémant”? Or go with the American love of acronyms and pour some CSW? (California sparkling wine)

What do you say?

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31 Responses to “California Cremant?”

  1. Just curious, when did “crémant” stop being a synonym for “pétillant”?

    At our house, we refer to Domaine Chandon and the like as “Califizzy.” Don’t think that would go over with the guys at Argyle and Domaine Ste. Michelle, though.

  2. Dave – Califizzy could work.

    Oregon and Washington bubblies don’t rip off the Champagne term the way California (and maybe some NY producers?) do. So that’s why I was focusing o them here. But Oregon and Washington cremant too. Or Washifizzy!

  3. I think U.S. sparkling wine makers should call it “Stars,” which could be appended to the state of origin to make Schramsberg’s wine “California Stars,” or Argyle’s “Oregon Stars,” or Thibaut-Janisson’s “Virginia Stars.” It is an English term, not a French term, despite evoking the oft-repeated, but likely apocryphal, quote from Dom Perignon: “Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!”

  4. bulle de vin….bubble of wine

  5. Since Champagne is both a place and a process, and we produce bubbles in many places and in many processes in America, how about FizzUS or FizzAM or Fizzistupid?

  6. I suggest you have Larry Mawby come up with a name; he already has FiZZ, Sex, Wet, Consort, Jadore, Talismon, Conservancy and Cremant Classic in his line.

  7. What’s wrong with “California Bubbly”
    Short, clear, and not a French word.

  8. And please, let’s not repeat the fiasco that was Meritage. No made up words that baffles average consumers.

  9. I often wonder why Korbel obstinately insists on calling their wine Champagne. For me, California Champagne is code for badly made fizzy stuff that I want to avoid. I rather like Korbel. The “C” word does them a disservice. I do not confuse their wine with Champagne, but with the badly made stuff.

  10. Calipagne…..sounds wonderful

  11. Hey Scott – “Stars” could be good since it also invokes another big business in California.

    Thomas – as long as it isn’t FizzLE.

    Art – Sheesh, it sounds as if he might have copyrighted a bunch of good terms.

    Cyrus – a pleasure to see you here in the comments. You make a terrific point about not repeating the faux frenchiness of Meritage. I like “California Bubbly.”

    Louis – yes, I agree with you; thanks for making that point. Incidentally, since Schramsberg and other higher-end bubblies eschew the term “champagne” on their labels, it’s really the $10 sparklers that use the term. So the market is already stratified in its usage of the term.

  12. Dear Tyler, your proposal of California Crémant is not serious because you know very well that Crémant is a name reserved to a series of French sparkling wine AOC (Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant d’Alsace, ecc) with the only ecception for horribles Crémant du Luxembourg. Also in Italy we can’t use Crémant name and the most important appellation, Franciacorta, invented some year ago the name Satèn for their ex Crémant wines.
    A question: I don’t understand why you American must use another European name. Champagne, and now Crémant. Please use for your sparkling wines an american name, if you are able to find a good name.. 🙂

  13. Mike – yes, better not to use anything ending in “-pagne” for obvious reasons!

    Franco – Yes, too bad about cremant not really being workable. But, you’re right, we do need an American (English-language) term. And I’m sure that since we can market billions of dollars a year of insipid beer, we could come up with a successful campaign for some bubbly.

    Interesting about Satèn–hadn’t heard about that one. What does that term mean? What was the process for coming up with that?

  14. thank you for your very kind answer Tyler! About Satèn read here:

  15. I would label the bottles “American Effervescent Wines”, use a spritzy or bubbly logo, and let the reputation of the Winery supply the prestige and a great label.

  16. Didnt UK try to rename there sparklers to something unique dont think its working cant work its sparkling wine, or cremant whats the big deal [I mean for us no big deal] but I gues marketing need somethng

  17. Hi Tyler, herewith the link to my post about your article and the very interesting discussion I wrote for my wine blog Lemillebolleblog, all about sparkling wines

  18. Robin – Nice, though I wonder if it may be too many syllables?

    Weston – Yes, Britagne and Merret have been thrown out there though the industry hasn’t reached a consensus for a term yet.

    Franco – Thanks for extending the discussion.

  19. Stars is pretty close,and it fits into the American ‘Stars & Stripes’ nomenclature. Sparkler is already in the lingo of both the trade and the general consumer. Why not go laid-back California style and officially establish a fun term as only we Gringos can: I’ll have some of that California ‘Sparky’ by the glass please!

  20. i’ve been saying for years that people will keep calling it champagne until we come up with a better name than “sparkling wine”. i would go with “bubbles” or “bubbly”, since it is already popular, perfectly descriptive, and easy to spell and pronounce

  21. +1 for Bubbly!

  22. It doesn’t really matter what you name it. If the sparkling wine tastes good, people will buy it.

    Will the confusion on the term “Champagne” ever end? I doubt it. Many will always call sparkling wines Champagne…the word is entrenched in our culture.

  23. Philippe – Sparkler has good potential — not so sure about Sparky! 😉

    Steve – Yes, people may continue to call it champagne along with all sparking lines (Cava, etc). That’s one thing. It’s like calling all facial tissues Kleenex or all photocopies Xerox–nobody is going to bust you for that verbal expression in the copy room.

    Nate and Gabe – Bubbly or Bubbles could work providing no individual firm already holds the rights…

    But what’s happening in California is 16 labels continue to place the term “Champagne” (modified by a geographic designation) on the label. That would be like putting Kleenex on tissue boxes made by producers other than who holds the rights to Kleenex or a photocopy machine having Xerox written on it even if its made by someone else. A big difference in my view.

  24. We should not forget that even France doesn’t only produce “Champagne”. From Blanquette to Crémant d’Alsace or Clairette, many other sparkling wines have been able to find their place on the market. Why not encouraging then each terroir of California to adopt their own denomination, along with a distinctive style?
    Some of them may become more famous than others according to their soil and to their attention to quality which is a good incentive for producers as well as a good recognition tool for consumers…
    From my marketing class I remember that differentiation is the key 😉

  25. Crémant was a term used for Champagne exclusively (unless you count Schramsberg) until the mid-1970s, when they agreed with other regions of France to let them use it (Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant d’Alsace, and so on) as a way to distinguish their vins mousseux — cuve close vs. méthode champenosie. And in exchange for that, the producers of these types of Crémants agreed not to use the term “méthode champenoise,” but instead label their wines as “méthode traditionelle.”

    So what sort of firestorm do you actually think labeling wines as “California Crémant” — as opposed to “California Champagne” — will avoid?

    Sorry. Dumb idea.

  26. I know Korbel’s perception, but didn’t it just win the sweepstakes/best of show for sparkling wines in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition? Can’t be all that bad.

  27. I don’t think there needs to be any change in how US Sparkling Wine is referred to. With a minimum of consumer education and market comparison, it is straigforward to tell the difference between Charmat and Methode Champenois, as well as $4.99 (plastic stopper), and $29.00 vintage dated. Nothing put forward so far can be considered serious for the industry to adopt. Brut, BdB, BdN are the language of this style and don’t translate to any other type of wine. If we can just get people to understand what Extra Dry means…

  28. Considering California didn’t sign the agreement to not call their sparkling wines Champagne back in the day, it doesn’t really matter a whole lot. But I work at a winery and we’ve been calling our SW’s by Blanc de Noir/Blanc, Rose, and Cremant and that goes over better than the “champagne” that most of CA uses (note, the lower case c)

  29. Considering it isn’t a sovereign nations, it’s not surprising that California did not sign the agreement “back in the day.” Thus, it was certainly legal to label wines “American Champagne,” “California Champagne,” “Napa Valley Champagne,” etc. It was also completely legal to label wines “советское шампанское” (“Soviet Champagne”) as well. But just because it was legal does not make it right.

    It was also perfectly legal for U.S.-based wineries to produce — and understandable as to why — wines labeled “Burgundy,” “Claret,” “Chablis,” and “Rhine,” but few think that practice should continue today. The same is true for “Champagne.”

    Daniel, I, too, have worked (admittedly, past tense) for wineries. Indeed, I was in the trade from 1969-2001. Every U.S. winery used the term “Champagne” for their sparkling wines, regardless of production technique, until 1973 when Moët opened the then-named “Domaine Chandon.” Within a relatively short period of time, every high-end producer had dropped the term Champagne with the exception of Schramsberg — the late Jack Davies vowed *never* to do so; Schramsberg changed once Jack passed away in the late-1990s — and Korbel, which still refuses to do so.

    On the low-end, André, Cook’s, Great Western all continue to (mis-)use the name.

  30. I was in California during Christmas, and was looking for French cremant for Kir Royale. ALL THEY HAD was California white sparkling wine. I took a long time to decide what I want because I really didn’t know what would be dry enough. I finally bought something, and it was fine. But yea, they are making it. And in California, wine stores sell it instead of French cremant. I couldn’t gotten French cremant in New York for less money; so I was peeved even though it tasted fine.

  31. Cremant should be used only for French Wines…but “California Cremant”, why not…it needs to find its own identity…


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