Sparkling Wines to Celebrate New Year's Eve That Cost Less Than Champagne
Popping a bottle of Champagne on New Year’s Eve is tantamount to lighting Roman candles as a kid. Once you hear that initial “POP!” it’s hard not to feel giddy. While sipping Champagne is symbolic of lively celebrations, the sticker price can sometimes leave you in shock. Although there are some quality, moderately priced Champagnes available, it’s good to know you have more options. In fact, there are lots of alternatives that present high quality bubbles at a more affordable price. With the help of our wine experts who know great value when they see and taste it, we’ve cleared some confusion about sparkling wine, while providing some suggestions to help you find the right wine to cheers with this New Year.
All Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne.
One of our wine experts, Bill Stobbs, explains it best: “Champagne is the king of sparkling wines. But in order to be called Champagne it must meet a few prerequisites. First of all, it has to come from the Champagne region in northern France. Next, it has to be made from certain grapes – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. (There are four other lesser grapes that can be used but these represent only about 0.02% of total acreage.) Finally, Champagne has to be made using a special process for getting the bubbles in the wine. This is secondary fermentation in each and every bottle and is often referred to as ‘methode champenoise’ or ‘methode traditionelle.’”
What are sparkling wines from France, but not made in the Champagne region?
Crémants are sparkling wines made in France using the same method of production of Champagne, but are not from the Champagne region.
“Crémant de Bourgogne is an appellation of Burgundy, just south of Champagne, exhibiting similar climate and using the same grape varieties, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay,” says ABC French Wines Expert, Atanas Nechkov. “They use the same Classic Champagne Method for the secondary fermentation. The grapes for all Crémant de Bourgogne are hand harvested. So, if you are looking for a Champagne taste without the “Champagne” budget, Crémant de Bourgogne is as close as you are going to get.
The popularity of Prosecco
“Prosecco has seen ever-increasing popularity in recent years and is currently one of the bestselling sparkling wines in the U.S. today, as well as Florida ABC stores. Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine produced from a very specific region in north east Italy about an hour north of Venice,” says Italian wines expert, Paul Quaglini. “Its success can be attributed to a number of factors. First, Prosecco offers a tremendous value especially when compared to French Champagne. Second, it has a light, fruity flavor profile with a refreshing simplicity that is just easy to drink and understand. Finally, Prosecco is extremely versatile. It’s great as an aperitif, mixed into your favorite sparkling cocktail or even paired with lighter food. I see Prosecco’s upward trend continuing as more of our guests discover this everyday affordable luxury.”
We suggest Collalto Prosecco Superior Brut DOCG. The Collalto family has been making wine since the Middle Ages, so they’ve had time to perfect their Prosecco. The “DOCG” stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita or Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin – meaning it is the highest designation of quality among Italian wines.
What is the most budget-friendly sparkling wine?
If you are looking for a good quality bubbly that’s truly fit for a tight budget, then the Cava, the sparkling wine from Spain is your best bet. It is made using the Traditional Champagne method but uses different grapes varietals. Most Cavas are produced in the Penedès area of Catalonia, where it is known as a “must have” at Catalan and Spanish family traditions. If you plan on throwing a party and need to buy bubbly in bulk, Cava is choice. Unless your guests are amateur sommeliers, chances are they will not know you aren’t serving them Champagne. We suggest Dominio de la Peseta Cava. It hosts aromas and flavors of white flowers, star fruit and ripe citrus. Much like Champagne, it has small bubbles and persistent effervescence.
Want something a little sweeter?
“For those people who are looking for a sparkling wine that are a tad sweeter than the usual Extra Dry or Brut, look for those that are listed as Demi-Sec,” says wine expert Bill Stobbs. “Demi-Sec sparklers are still somewhat dry but not bone-dry. They are great for celebrations and gatherings because people who like dry styles or sweet styles will still accept Demi-Sec. As far as other styles, there is Brachetto which is a somewhat sweet red sparkler from Italy, Sparkling Shiraz from Australia, and of course the ever-popular Italian Asti which is a sweeter style made from the Moscato grape.”