There are plenty of appealing champagne alternatives if you are looking for an enjoyable sparkling wine experience for the festive season. While only wine made in the Champagne wine region can be called Champagne, many other wine regions make great alternatives to Champagne including Burgundy’s Cremant de Bourgogne.
Two Ways To Look At Champagne Alternatives
There are two ways to look for champagne alternatives depending on how specific you want to be. Any sparkling wine could be seen as a champagne alternative on one level because you get the same bubble experience. Many wine lovers and wineries take a different view. They look at the production methods and ask whether the producer indeed uses a traditional champagne production method. If they do not use traditional methods, this view says they are not valid champagne alternatives.
1 Cava – A Less Expensive Wine From Spain
Primary Grape Types: Macabeu, Parellada, and Xarello
Cava is the first champagne wine alternative I discovered for a simple reason: it is affordable. That’s just the beginning, though. With Spanish sparkling wines, you still have the experience of enjoying a well-established sparkling wine tradition that goes back a long time. While Cava is made with the same production methods as Champagne, it uses different wine grapes, such as lesser-known white wine grapes (e.g., Macabeu, Parellada, and Xarello. That said, Cava is also made with classic French wine grapes like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Examples of Spanish Sparkling wine include:
– Cava Rosé: yes, you can find rose-style sparkling wine in Spain. These wines typically include Grenache or Pinot Noir.
-Aged Cava. For a different sparkling wine experience, look for a producer offering an aged cava. These wines offer a different flavor like almond and apple than what you would find in a glass of traditional Champagne.
2 Provence Rose – The perfect Champagne alternative for summer
Provence is less well known among French wine regions, which is too bad because these wines are fantastic. For a fun wine experience, especially in the summer, I recommend enjoying a rose sparkling wine from Provence. They can be more difficult to find than traditional Champagne, but they are very refreshing.
According to Wine Spectator, more than sixty winemakers in Provence are making sparkling wine, so it should be relatively easy to find this French champagne alternative. Interestingly, Provence has produced sparkling wines for over a century, but the trend toward sparkling rose is relatively new. This champagne alternative is also exciting due to its relative affordability.
Examples of Provence sparkling wine include: Rivarose Brut and Maison Marcel Sparkling Rosé.
3 American Wine: California’s Answer To Champagne
Commonly Used Grape Varieties: many different varieties are used, including the varieties pioneered in France: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc.
California sparkling wine has an interesting history in terms of becoming an alternative to Champagne. Sparkling wine production in California has been around far longer than I would have guessed – it dates back to the 1860s.
Due to a quirk of history, some California wine producers use variations of the word Champagne on their labels. While you could see this use of the word “Champagne” as misleading from one perspective, I see it differently. For the best wine producers, this usage means a producer follows in the footsteps of the champagne wine region.
For more insight on the surprising history of California wines and Champagne, check out Vinepair’s article: The 100-Year-Old Loophole That Makes California Champagne Legal. Vinepair argues that the US didn’t ratify the Treaty of Versailles, so it is not bound by article 275, which supports Champagne’s exclusivity. It’s an intriguing story because it shows how the French’s long-standing passion for advocating for their wines.
Examples of California Sparkling wine include Mumm Brut Prestige, Long Meadow Ranch NV Farmstead Brut, and Roederer Estate Multi Vintage Brut.
4 Italian Sparkling Wine: Prosecco
Common Wine Grapes: Glera Grapes
Produced in northern Italy, Prosecco is Italy’s best-known sparkling wine. As a champagne alternative, prosecco delivers a bubble experience. The wine also offers a different taste, and it tends to be relatively sweeter. Therefore, if you are looking for a wine for your wine chocolate pairing night, Prosecco is a good choice.
There are also wine-making differences between Champagne which generally has a more extended production period and involves more pressure inside the bottle. Prosecco, on the other hand, is different. It can be as little as one atmosphere of pressure which means more frothy bubbles when you open the bottle. The downside to Prosecco’s lower pressure? Those bubbles are going to disappear relatively quickly after opening the bottle.
Fun fact: As of 2018, 600 million bottles of Prosecco wine were produced compared to 362 million bottles of Champagne. If you see this Italian champagne alternative in stores and restaurants frequently than its French equivalent, keep in mind that there is more Prosecco wine produced.
Examples of Prosecco include: Adami Garbèl Brut Prosecco, La Marca Prosecco, and Giuliana Prosecco. These sparkling wines deliver the bubble-filled experience at a great price.
5 Ontario Sparkling Wine: Champagne Alternatives From Canada
Commonly Used Wine Grapes: Chardonnay, Riesling, and other varieties.
A Canadian champagne alternative? Yes! I live in Ontario, so I’m going to do my part to raise the profile of Canadian wine. Expect to see some creative ideas in Ontario sparkling wine like sparkling rosé and making sparkling wine from Riesling. Ontario wine producers have successfully adapted the traditional Champagne method for the most part.
Examples of Ontario sparkling wines highlighted by Wining With Mel include: 13th Street Cuvée Rosé Brut, 2027 Cellars Blanc de Blancs, Rosehall Run Ceremony Blanc de Blancs, and Cave Spring 2017 Riesling Brut.
Want To Learn Wine Terms?
The wine world has specialized terminology that can be confusing. There’s a reason why it takes years of study to earn wine certifications, and documentaries have been made about the process like SOMM.
Fortunately, signing up for a full-time wine course is not your only option (you can also take a shorter online course like Become A Great Wine Taster). You can also read my guide to 24 wine terms for beginners. You will find out what wine terms like acidity, aroma, body, and corked mean so that you can better describe the wine you like. When you can describe the wines you like best, you can find more wines you like in stores and restaurants.