Cheese Hour at the Culinary Cabin with Pierre Sparr Cremant d'Alsace Brut Reserve (#Winophiles)

A bottle of rich Cremant d'Alsace from Pierre Sparr makes an excellent accompaniment for an elaborate cheese and charcuterie spread.

This bottle was provided as a media sample. As usual, all opinions are my own and no other compensation was received. 

We’ve started an accidental trend of bringing bottles of Cremant d’Alsace on vacations. Last year I shared two bottles that went on the road with us, and we recently continued the tradition by taking a bottle of Pierre Sparr Cremant d'Alsace Brut Reserve to share with friends at the Culinary Cabin in Tahoe. 

Our trips to the Culinary Cabin are epic feasts that go on for days. Occasionally, our friends Lucy and Drew invite us, along with a few other friends, to their family’s vacation house for little getaways that basically turn into cooking camp where we all switch off making amazing meals. In addition, there are often some pretty delicious cheese hours – happy hour, but with cheese. Our friends Dee and Drew joined in on the most recent trip, and these two turn out some phenomenal cheese spreads. (That’s not a typo, they’re both Drews. We refer to them as Northern Drew and Southern Drew respectively based on where in the state they live.) When combined with the tidbits and extra treats that the rest of us added in, the cheese hours were taken to another level this trip. 

In addition to a slew of cheeses, we also had quite a bit of charcuterie, condiments, and other goodies like olives on the table. On the night we opened the bottle of Pierre Sparr, Northern Drew also conjured up a couple of extra appetizers with the other guys as sous chefs to enjoy including crispy chicken skin, roasted mushrooms, and saucy tomatoes with grilled bread. There were also  two pots of rillets on the table, one made of rabbit and one of the pork rillets I shared in this post.  (I can now affirm that these freeze quite well.)  In the end, this cheese hour was so abundant that it completely did away with the need for dinner. 


Pierre Sparr Cremant d'Alsace Brut Reserve

12.5% ABV | Average Price: $21 

I’ve shared quite a few bottles of Cremant d’Alsace here over time, so I’m not going to go into a long description here, but very simply put, Cremant in sparkling wine that is made in the style of Champagne (aka traditional method or méthode traditionnelle) that come from regions other than Champagne. In this case, the wine comes from Alsace in northeastern France. 

Image borrowed from Pierre Sparr's website.

Maison Pierre Sparr has a long history spanning many generations. The family’s winemaking origins date back to 1680 under Jean Sparr. Starting in 1785, François Pierre Sparr began increasing the vineyard holdings. Jump ahead a few generations, and Charles Sparr turned his attention to developing the business, trade, and winery’s wine aging practices. His son, Pierre, became the head of the company at the age of 20 and developed the business further, and became a pioneer in estate bottling in Alsace. His motto was: “invest, progress and maintain.”

Map borrowed from

Alsace was one of the French regions most devastated by the World Wars due to its location right on the border with Germany. The domaine’s vineyards were completely destroyed during WWII. Pierre Sparr worked very hard to rebuild the domaine back to its previous prestige. His sons René and Charles continued the work and increased the vineyard holding and developed European markets for the company. The winery is now in its 9th generation in the family, and they have Corinne Perez as the current winemaker.

Today the domaine owns 15 hectares of vineyards, and they source from an additional 130 hectares supplied by well-experienced winegrowers. I couldn’t find much on the winery’s vineyard practices, however, their site does note that they do not use chemical fertilizers and they limit their yields for quality control. 

Image borrowed from Pierre Sparr's website.

Their Cremant d'Alsace Brut Reserve is a blend of 80% Pinot Blanc and  20% Pinot AuxerroisGrapes for this wine are whole-cluster pressed, with the varieties being handled separately. The wine is fermented and held in stainless steel tanks, then the still wines are blended and bottled, and then the wine spends 12-16 months on the lees before release. Find tech sheet on this wine here and here for additional details.

I found this to be a rich style of Cremant d’Alsace with lots of baked pear and apple notes. On the nose, there were pretty floral notes as well. On the palate, there were also flavors of toasted nuts and honeyed mead-like notes, at the front, and then move into fresher notes of lemon towards the mid-palate and finish. There was a creamy feel to the texture of this wine. 

This was generally a very friendly wine when it came to pairing. I can’t think of anything it clashed with on our extensive cheese and charcuterie table. Sparkling wines in general tend to pair well with fried foods, and following in that tradition, this wine paired really well with the crispy chicken skins. It also matched particularly well with the two types of rillets spread on grilled buttery bread, managing somehow to both mirror the richness of these meaty spreads, and then cleanse and lift the palate at the finish. Sweet items that you tend to find on a cheese plate like fruit, jams, confitures, and mostarda can be tricky to pair with dry wines in general, but this wine worked better than most in my experience, perhaps thanks to the richness of the fruit and the nutty flavors. This was particularly true when these sweeter items were accompanied in a bite with savory charcuterie or salty cheese. 

The wine worked generally well with most cheeses, but as there were too many on the table to discuss them all individually, I’ll just spotlight one that I really enjoyed with the wine – Brillat-Savarin Affine. We’ll take a closer look at the cheese momentarily, but I really enjoyed how these two worked together. Similar to how the wine worked with the rillettes, the wine matched the cheese’s decadent texture, but then refreshed the palate at the close of a sip.

See this post for more on Cremant in general and this post for more on Cremant d’Alsace specifically. For more on the region of Alsace, check out this post

Brillat-Savarin Affine

Brillat-Savarin Affine is a bloomy-rind, soft-ripened triple cream cow's milk cheese that is soooooooooo silky, creamy, and delicious that Dee refers to it as the “unicorn cheese.” 

This version comes from Fromagerie Delin and they give the following description of the cheese and its history on their site: 

This cream-enriched cheese has a rich and varied history. In fact, it was to pay tribute to Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826), an illustrious figure in the French Revolution and above all a lover of fine gourmet foods, that Henri Androuet had the idea of naming a cheese after him around 1930.

It is a soft cheese made from a lactic curd that has been enriched with cream before maturing. It can be eaten fresh, in which case the softness and creaminess will dominate with creamy notes and a hint of acidity and freshness.

With the maturing process, its attractive bloomy rind appears after a few days and will give it a more assertive character. But once again, it is the creaminess and suppleness of the cheese that are the dominant characteristics. Nuances of hazelnut and mushroom coming from the rind complement the creaminess, imparting all its aromatic complexity.

Brillat-Savarin has been a PGI since 2017, with a production area extending from the south of the Ile-de-France to Burgundy. We are fortunate to have a production site in both these areas. You’ll really be able to taste the difference.

I think it can occasionally be hard to find – adding to why Dee calls it the “unicorn cheese,” but you can find this version here.

In terms of flavor, I found it to be mild in flavor with a pleasant sour tang, but the true joy of the cheese is the luscious texture. As I mentioned, It was a lovely match with our bottle of Pierre Sparr Cremant.

Cheese this good has a tendency to disappear!


For more Crémant wines with pairings, check out:

Both Pierre Sparr’s website and have many more pairing ideas for wines from the region – check out their websites for more inspiration. 

I received two additional bottles of Cremant d’Alsace as samples for participation in this month’s French Winophiles event. Sadly, Greg and I got stranded on vacation on the east coast with COVID (luckily not too bad) and the other bottles are waiting for me at home. Perhaps the bottles of Cremant were a lucky charm on previous trips, as we had managed to avoid the plague up until now.


The rest of the French Winophiles are discussing Cremant d'Alsace this month, hosted by Jill Barth of L'Occasion. Be sure to check out the rest of their posts for more pairing ideas: 

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    1. What a feast! The "Culinary Cabin" sounds like an amazing getaway! I am inspired to dig into some cheeses I don't know. Time to get in the car and make the drives to my two favorite cheese shops in town. They are a bit of a drive and so I have not gone recently, but now I am inspired! Oh, and I'd best find some more Cremant d'Alsace!

      1. Despite the drive, I don't think you can go wrong with this plan. It can only yield good things!

    2. I want a trip to your Culinary fun is that?!!

    3. Such a good overview of this unique cheese and Cremant. I always learn so much from your posts, and the tasting notes are delectable!


    Thanks so much for leaving your comments and questions. I always love to hear from you!