Not all sparkling wine is Champagne, and that’s alright. Champagne is delicious, but it’s not always affordable. A decent bottle may cost about $40. This is not a bad price for a good wine, yet it is not quite what most of us imagine spending. Fortunately, here are some solutions.
Yes, you can drink fine bubbly all the time.
The solution is to look outside the small region of Champagne for good, decently-priced bubbles. Many of these wines are produced with the same method as Champagne and use the same grape varieties. Here is a list of very useful tips that identify what to look for when seeking out great sparkling wine.
Remember, Champagne is just one type of sparkling wine. There are lots of high quality options from all over France and the rest of the world. Below are the regional names for wines made in the traditional Champagne style:
Italy: Metodo Classico (not Prosecco or Lambrusco: see why)
Spain: Cava and Espumoso
Germany and Austria: Sekt
South Africa: Cap Classique
Portugal and Argentina: Espumante
USA, Australia, Chile, etc.: Traditional Method and “Méthode Champenoise”
France has 23 other sparkling wine regions that are fantastic. Get to know all 23 regions and names.
In Northern Spain, sparkling wine is called “Cava.” This style of Spanish bubbly offers several tiers of quality that mimic the classification of Champagne. This is exciting because most Cava are available for less than $20, which is an outrageously awesome deal for the good stuff.
Cava: Entry-level non-vintage (NV) Cava with 9 months of aging.
Reserva: NV Cava with 15 months of aging (identical aging to basic NV Champagne).
Gran Reserva: a vintage dated Cava with no less than 30 months of “tirage”/aging.
Most sparkling wines improve with extended aging during Tirage (“Tear-ahj”). Tirage happens after the second fermentation (which is when sparkling wines get bubbly) and it involves resting the wine on the dead yeast particles that happen naturally during fermentation. These little particles are called “lees” and lees give wines a fuller body and creamier texture. Extending the tirage gives sparkling wine more creamy and nutty flavors.
9 month tirage: This should be a minimum and doesn’t really add that much…
15 month–2 year tirage: This is when sparkling wines start to develop richer flavors.
3-8 year tirage this is the tirage the very best sparkling wines in the world use.
By Madeline Puckette, Wine Folly