These bubbles won't break the bank.

By Betty Gold
August 16, 2019
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Nothing says "celebrate!" quite like a bottle of sparkling wine or Champagne. It's light and refreshing enough to be served on its own but pairs well with party foods galore. Plus, the sound of a cork popping triggers an uncontrollable reflex within me to toast a holiday/marriage/baby/Tuesday night, and probably ugly cry some tears of joy, too. There's just something about those beautiful little bubbles.

But there’s one thing that deters many of us from popping a bottle of bubbly over regular red or white: the price.

Because sparkling is the go-to style of wine for celebrating, it’s easy to think that the cost has to match the occasion (i.e. big bucks). Worse, many assume that affordable styles of sparkling wine will give you an aching migraine. Sure, there are plenty of pricey bottles of sparkling wine out there, but according to Rachael Lowe, the beverage director at Spiaggia and Maddon’s Post in Chicago, this is a very short-sighted assumption. Rachael says sparkling wine deserves a spot at every wine-centric dinner, and that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to taste like a million bucks. "Sparkling wine isn’t something that just needs to be for special occasions—it can be great as a pairing as well. Start your meal off with bubbles before you move from lighter whites to fuller reds.”

Rachael’s top tip for saving money on sparkling wine? Think beyond Champagne, or sparkling wines made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France and produced used the Méthode Champenoise.

“When looking for sparkling wine, there’s much more to try than Champagne. I recommend looking at some unorthodox but similar regions,” she says. Here are some lesser-known albeit seriously delicious styles Rachael recommends exploring next time you’re in the wine shop in search of sparkling.

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Cremant

Cremant is a great alternative to Champagne—it uses a very similar production method with slightly different grapes. Plus, it can be quarter to half the price of a standard bottle of champagne, so it’s an awesome, price-friendly option. Try regions from France such as Cremant d’Alsace, Cremant de Bourgogne, and Cremant de Jura, all utilizing grapes from the aforementioned various regions in the traditional sparkling wine production method, with the secondary fermentation in the bottle.

Cava

Cava is another wine region that offers fantastic value for wines that are made in the traditional method, and aged for some time prior to release. Within this region of Catalonia, wineries produce sparkling from Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo.

Trentino

Try sparkling wine from the Trentino region of northeast Italy. Produced in the Metodo Classico (traditional method) this region utilizes the main grapes used in champagne and ages on the yeasts a minimum of 15 months. "Ferrari is one of my favorite producers here," says Rachael.

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Lambrusco

“Sparkling wines don’t have to be just brut or pale rose in color! One can look elsewhere for a more robust and alternative wine such as Lambrusco from the region of Emilia-Romagna in Italy." This wine, more often than not, is a dark plum color. Generally produced in the charmat method (similar to that of Prosecco, bottled under pressure) this wine will be mildly sparkling and can come in versions from bone dry to ‘amabile’ or slightly sweet to sweet. “Notes of cassis, raspberry preserves, blackcurrant, and dried herbs, along with a rich mouth feel and bright bubbles, this is the perfect pairing with charcuterie, or meat and cheese plates! The contrast of the fruit with the salt could not be more heavenly."

Moscato d’Asti

Speaking of sweeter or ‘off-dry’ wines, as a perfect accompaniment to desserts, by itself or simply as a lower alcohol alternative with more fruit on the palate for those who don’t like dry wines, Moscato d’Asti is a great option. From the region of Asti in Piedmont, Italy this wine has soft bubbles (produced in the Charmat method), and notes of peach, pear, apricot, and white flowers. "This is an easy-drinking wine and being less than 6 percent alcohol usually, it won’t get one too tipsy."

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