Celebrating without Champagne

champagneEven before the Champagne business adopted Stormtrooper 101 as its business model, its product was too expensive for almost all of us who buy wine. A decent bottle costs at least $30, and it’s probably closer to $40 by the time you find something interesting. So what’s a wine drinker to do who wants to celebrate with sparkling wine, but doesn’t want to buy Champagne?

Consider these alternatives (and if you’re confused, check out the blog’s sparkling wine FAQ):

Look elsewhere in France: Champagne isn’t the only part of the country that produces sparkling wine, and the values elsewhere can sometimes be astounding. These wines, called cremant, include Louis Bouillot Brut Rose ($18, purchased, 12%). The Bouillot is from Burgundy, where there is no question of quality, and it’s made with the same kinds of grapes as Champagne. Look for tight bubbles, a little caramel, and muted strawberry fruit. Highly recommended.

Go domestic: Big Wine comes through here, with Domaine Ste. Michelle from Washington state (the same company that does table wine as Chateau Ste. Michelle). These sparklers are made in the Champagne style, so that the second fermentation is in the bottle, cost about $12, and are available in what seems like every grocery store in the country. If they aren’t complex wines, they usually deliver more than $12 worth of value.

Spend a couple of dollars more for a better quality Prosecco: The surge in Prosecco’s popularity means a lot of ordinary wine is selling for $15, which can make it difficult to find value. Still, it’s out there, like the Valdo Prosecco Brut ($11, sample, 11%). It was much better than I expected, with more depth and character, a touch of yeast, and some sweet lemon fruit.

Cava is your friend: Regular visitors know how the Wine Curmudgeon feels about cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, but it’s worth repeating — it may be the best wine value in the world. The Casa Pedro Domecq Cava Gran Campo Viejo Brut Reserva ($10, purchased, 11.5%) is a serious cava, with lots of apple fruit and lots of bubbles, and it will be gone before you know it.