This year, I had an opportunity to travel to Brussels, Belgium, for a chance to try the cult Lambic producer: Brouwerij Cantillon. Lambic, while technically a beer, is similar to wine in the way it is produced. Traditional Lambics are almost always aged in used oak barrels, which take years to mature. Also, most great Belgium Lambics are created from the wild yeasts that inhabit the exclusive Senne River Valley. When these wild yeasts come into contact with the unfermented material used for beer, they cause a spontaneous fermentation, resulting in a Lambic.
Traditional Lambic has captured the imagination of wine lovers for decades; the aromas and flavors resulting from the wild yeast fermentation are truly incredible. However, it’s when the brewer decides to add fruit to the Lambic that the flavors begin to mimic the great wines of the world. If you’re an adventurous wine lover who is open to new beverages, read about Cantillon’s wine inspired Lambics below…
Cantillon – Saint Lamvinus 2012
Created by using Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes from the St. Emilion and Pomeral regions of Bordeaux France, these grapes are combined with two- to three-year-old Lambic that has been aged in used Bordeaux barrique barrels.
Saint Lamvinus’s flavors contrast between rich and precise, creating a balanced structure framed by black currant and sour black cherry, “Bretty” from the traditional Lambic yeast, but also a faint tobacco aroma coming from the Cabernet Franc. I wish I knew what Château was supplying them with these grapes…
Cantillon – Carignan 2013
Because it is not made every year, this Lambic made with Carignan grapes is a rarity from the Cantillon portfolio. Although Carignan is found in the Southern reaches of France, it originates from the North Eastern plains of Spain. This is precisely where Cantillon sources their Carignan for this special brew.
Unfortunately, my wife thought I had enough to drink before it came time for this Lambic. Classic Carignan has the rustic flavors similar to a great G.S.M. blend; I can only image how these flavors are translated with this Lambic.
Cantillon – Vigneronne 2011
We found this bottle in France, inside a tiny beer shop tucked away on a quiet alley within Paris. When initially asking “Any Cantillon?”, the answer was no! It took a little convincing to get them to sell me the bottle.
The six-pointed star on the Vigneronne label is the symbol of the alchemist; the triangles in the star represent the necessary elements for Lambic production. Cantillon’s Vigneronne is made by blending Lambic with Italian Muscat grapes. These Muscat grapes help mellow the sharp flavors of the Lambic and complement the subtle funky aromas with flavors of flowers and stone fruit.
The beers mentioned above are incredibly rare, only available in the U.S. through specialty beer shops or by trading. If you are curious and would like to try one in Orange County, go to Hollingshead’s Deli in Orange. While I can’t guarantee they will have Cantillon, if you ask for something similar I’m sure they will recommend a Lambic that hits the mark.