I adore Champagne. I can drink it in the spring, summer, fall or winter. It pairs seamlessly with almost any food including, of all things, popcorn. But with this adoration comes a dilemma, most of us can’t afford it as an everyday drinking wine. Even the most humble of true Champagnes can cost $40 to $50 a bottle.
So how do we enjoy the bubbles without breaking the bank? My best advice is look outside of the Champagne region. Many of these bubbly wines are produced using the same technique as Champagne and sometimes even the same grapes.
The United States is quickly moving forward as a contender in offering value priced bubbly with just as much elegance. The label will read “Traditional Method” or “Methode Champenoise” because using the word “Champagne” is restricted outside of the French region of Champagne. Most American producers follow the same production methods and even the same traditional recipe of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. Washington state is a region to keep your eyes on for not only the quality of its chardonnay and pinot noir grapes but for the price value of its products.
- NV Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut, Washington (about $14 retail)
- NV Treveri Cellars Brut, Washington (about $17 retail)
Spanish winemakers have been bottling bubbly for hundreds of years. Cava, the Spanish take on Champagne is much different, as they use indigenous grapes (macabeo, xarel-lo and parellada) but most are produced in the same method as Champagne. The resulting wine may not offer Champagne’s signature complexities but it does have a reliable, fresh fizz at half the price. This price savings makes Spanish sparkling a good pick for large parties or for cocktails such as the bellini and mimosa.
- NV Segura Viudas Aria Estate Brut, Spain (about $13 retail)
- NV Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad, Spain (about $26 retail)
Germany, as with most of its wine, particularly riesling, seems to be a forgotten gem for the American wine drinker. Germany is a huge consumer and producer of sparkling wine, known as sekt or schaumwein in German. It is estimated that just over one in five bottles (22 percent) of the sparkling wine produced worldwide is consumed in Germany, more than any other country.
- NV Schloss Biebrich Sekt, Germany (about $10 retail)
- NV Von Buhl Sparkling Riesling, Germany (about $28 retail)