Champagne, the grand dame of sparkling wines, is so famous that some people use the term Champagne “generically” when referring to any sparkling wine. However, there are actually many other unique, delightful sparkling wines from regions around the world—many of which are more affordable. So if you are in the mood to celebrate, here are some sparkling options from France, Italy and Spain you might enjoy…
Champagne: True Champagnes are produced only from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Pinot Meunier grapes grown in the Champagne region of France using the traditional méthode champenoise. This technique involves making a still wine that is fermented in tanks or barrels and then bottling it with some additional yeast and sugar. This causes a second fermentation in the bottle which produces carbon dioxide gas that remains dissolved in the wine and is released as bubbles when the cork is popped.
True Champagnes can be classified as Blanc de Blancs (made from 100% Chardonnay grapes) or Blanc de Noirs (made from either Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, or a combination of both). If neither of these classifications is indicated, the wine can be any mixture of all three grapes.
Champagnes are also classified according to sweetness—from Extra Brut (extra dry) to Brut (dry) to Extra Dry (slightly sweet) to Demi-Sec (medium sweet) to Sec (sweet) to Doux (very sweet).
Crémant d’Alsace: Crémant is the indicator that the French came up with to connote sparkling wines from French regions other than Champagne. So anytime you see a wine labeled Crémant, you’ll know you have a sparkler on your hands. Crémant d’Alsace is the sparkling wine made in Alsace, France’s main Riesling-producing region. That said, these wines are often produced with—you guessed it—Riesling, along with Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir. These sparklers are made using the same production method as Champagnes and can range from extremely dry (Extra Brut) to dry (Brut) to slightly sweet (Demi-Sec). Crémant d’Alsace is usually considered a refreshing, floral, and crisp sparkling wine.
Crémant de Limoux: Limoux is a region in southwest France where the main grape is a varietal called Mauzac (known locally as Blanquette). Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc are also grown. Crémant de Limoux is made from a mixture of all three grapes (up to 30% combined of Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc is allowed). This sparkler tends to show the biscuity, herbal, and yeasty flavors that drive some Champagne lovers wild.
Blanquette de Limoux: This sparkling wine is produced from the same grapes as Crémant de Limoux, but at least 90% must be Mauzac. The remaining 10% can be Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, or a mixture of both. This sparkler has a distinctive taste of apple and spices (very cider-ish), and sometimes aromas of fresh cut grass.
Crémant de Jura: Jura is a small region located along France’s border with Switzerland and is known for making a unique style of oxidized white wine that has a distinct taste and orange hue. Crémant de Jura is usually made from a blend of Sauvignon (the main white grape in the area), Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris. These sparkling wines often have a musky aroma with flavors of ripe peaches and orange peel.
Crémant de Loire: The principal grape in this sparkler from the Anjou region of the Loire Valley is Chenin Blanc, a grape with naturally high acidity—making it great for pairing with food. Sparkling wines from the Loire Valley are often especially aromatic and beloved for their honeyed floral perfume.
Prosecco: This Italian bubbly has become more popular as a Champagne substitute for good reason—it is a very affordable, light, crisp sparkling wine. Prosecco is made from a grape that goes by the same name, but the wine is produced using the charmat process (the secondary fermentation takes place in steel tanks) instead of the méthode champenoise.
Asti: Another affordable Italian sparkler, Asti is made throughout the northern region of Piedmont from the Moscato grape using the charmat process. Speaking of Moscato, another option is Moscato d’Asti which is made in the same region from the same grape, but it is only slightly sparkling (frizzante) and tends to have less alcohol. Both of these options are sweeter wines that usually have a very floral bouquet as well as flavors of ripe peaches, nectarines, and apricots that are balanced by high acidity.
Cava: Cava, another affordable sparkling wine option, is produced mainly in Cataluña, Spain using the méthode champenoise. The majority of Cava is made from the native Macabeo, Parellada, Xareŀlo and Subriat grapes. Cava, like Champagne, can range in style from very dry to sweet and is a great celebratory sparkler that is usually very crisp and refreshing.