If there was a Drink Sparkling Wine Every Day club, I’d be a card-carrying member. Not that “Bubbles” pass my lips every day, but I try.
The infatuation with sparkling wine is common in the wine industry. Winemakers, somms, winery owners, writers…the love for bubbles is consistent. Those of us who are around lots of wine every day love the stuff. Sure, we “wine geeks” love Champagne to pieces, but there are alternatives that give us satisfaction for less then half the price. Off the top of my head, here are four reasons.
- It’s easy to drink and keep going. At 11-12% alcohol on average, which is 2% lower than the still wine counterparts, a couple of glasses of sparkling wine don’t affect the senses as quickly.
- Sparkling wines are more refreshing. Higher acidity and the bubbles give flavor satisfaction and cleanse the palate for whatever comes next (food or more drink).
- Wherever still wine is made, it seems sparkling wine is made, too. So if you consider sparkling wine one “category,” like Pinot Noir or Cabernet, then the sheer variety of grapes used, taste of place and winemaking styles make for a wine geek’s paradise.
- Cost. Take Champagne out of the conversation and sparkling wine is quite inexpensive. I find sparkling wines can be made in larger quantities (10K-50K cases, let’s say) than still wine and keep its character and deliciousness.
Free wine advice from a former Napa wine shop owner & sommelier
Budget $20 for a good bottle of sparkling wine and you’ll do just fine (perhaps with a little guidance from a certain wine critic, wink wink). As for WHAT sparkling wines to buy and try, here are a four good value types and/or wine regions to check out for bubbles. If you haven’t already.
Crémant from France. Crémant is mèthode traditionelle (bubbles made in bottle, as this and the next two wines listed are) sparkling wine made from one of eight specific regions of France. The Crémant wines you can typically find in the U.S. are Crémant de Bourgogne, d’Alsace, de Loire, de Limoux and de Jura. Terribly confusing I know, but French Crèmant is totally different than the Crémant sparkling wine made on the sweet side by Schramsberg Winery and others. How do you know you have the French Brut (or dry) style? Look for the words “Appellation Crèmant ________ Controlée” in small print at the bottom of the front label.
Most Crémants I’ve had have been good to very good, and cost $16-$28/bottle. Not bad. For a great example of what you can get for around $23, try TERRES SECRETES Crèmant de Bourgogne, Brut Rosé (a North Berkeley Imports/Retail selection).
Cava, the sparkling wine of Spain. Most Cava is made in the Penedes, part of Catalonia and just outside Barcelona. But Cava can come from a number of other government-designated areas. While the prices vary, Cava does have a reputation as being inexpensive, even the better ones. It’s a double edged sword for the Cava industry in that fantastic values from small family-run wineries can be sold on the wine shelves next to a huge-production, big marketing, mediocre Cava. For one of the latter (family-run, delicious), I REALLY like BOHIGAS Cava Brut Reserva for around $15/bottle. Crisp, refreshing, great texture. A great deal. My old haunt Back Room Wines in Napa has it in stock right now (June 2018 publish date).
Don’t you love it when wine explanations make perfect sense? Here’s one: Spanish sparkling wine is called CAVA because it was traditionally made in the cool CAVES (CAVA in Catalonian…95% of Cava is produced in Catalonia). CAVA are still used for production by the OGs.
SEKT from Germany and Austria. The typically high acidity of German wines bodes well for sparkling wines here. Austria’s climate, being more like France than Germany, makes for a slightly headier style. But they’re both great. Not INexpensive, but generally less than Champagne, the best ones are a treat for bubbles lovers. A little harder to find than those above, but with a little effort you’ll get some good Sekt.
Prosecco. The Veneto, northeast Italy sparkling wine is usually not mèthode traditionelle. So the bubbles are not as fine as the second fermentation, when the bubbles are made, happens in vat. It’s a good trade-off for price, however, as the cost of production is less. Not that you will feel cheated as the good Proseccos offer plenty of effervescence. Prosecco is easy to find, and a good one will cost well south of $20. One of my favorites is the Adami Prosecco “Bosco di Gica” for around $18/bottle. There are less expensive Proseccos for sure, but the extra $5-$6 is worth the bump up in quality here. “Chiseled, creamy and vibrant,” writes one top-notch reviewer.
Thanks for reading. And if, by chance, you have enjoyed sparkling wine almost exclusively on special occasions, remember that being alive is a special occasion. Enjoy.