Champagne, the original sparkling wine is produced only in the same-named region in France. It is made using the traditional Méthode Champenoise process. This is what gives it those tiny bubbles. Sparkling wine producers from other countries or regions are prohibited from using the term Champagne.
In America, eighty percent of Champagne and sparkling wine is consumed between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. For many, Champagne and sparkling wine are indulgences reserved for only-the-most-special occasions. I believe these beverages should be enjoyed year round. Champagnes often have lofty prices, making them too expensive for every day drinking. Fortunately, there are many excellent Champagne alternatives that aren’t budget busters.
Great-tasting Sparkling Wines
America produces several affordable sparkling wines. Most wineries use a combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier, the same grape varieties used in the Méthode Champenoise process. The producers below use this superior method.
Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rosé $28 – The Napa Valley AVA winery has been making sparkling wines for close to 50 years. Schramsberg’s lush-tasting bubbly undergoes aging for two years in their caves.
- Gruet Brut $16 – Don’t be fooled by their New Mexico location. The Gruet family has been making Champagne in France since 1952 and in New Mexico since 1989. This American sparkling is complex, full-bodied and a bargain. It’s one of my favorites.
- Laetitia NV Brut Cuvée $26 – The Santa Barbara area winery uses Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc, a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir. This slight variation is a positive and certainly worth a try.
Cremant sparkling wine also uses the traditional method. It’s produced in France; but in regions other than Champagne. Typically, cremant is made with non- traditional grape varieties. However, the grapes used are high quality.
- Michel Olivier Cremant de Limoux Brut $18 – Located in the southern France Languedoc-Roussillon region, this sparkling style uses Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir.
- JCB No. 69 Brut Rosé Cremant de Bourgogne $22 – Burgundy is famous for its expensive red Burgundian wines, which Americans refer to as Pinot Noir. This region makes sparkling wines too. The producer Jean-Charles Boisset (JCB) owns wineries in Sonoma and Napa Valley.
Cava is another solid Champagne alternative. This sparkler uses the indigenous Spanish grapes Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada. An excellent Cava typically costs less than $20; yet delivers on the Champagne moussy flavor.
- Segura Viudas Brut Reserva $12 – This Cava tastes as though it costs three times more.
- Juve Y Camps Brut Reserva de la Familia Cava 2011 $16 – The alluring brioche aroma will trick you into believing you are drinking an expensive Champagne.
Since you eat every day, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t drink sparkling wine with your meal. These Champagne stand-ins are an amazing accompaniment to any food. Cheers!