Guide to Fabulous Sparkling Wines from Around the World
With Christmas and New Year’s approaching, we are all trying to stock our home bars for parties, family dinners or just for ourselves to feel the festive cheer this holiday season. But what a better way to toast Christmas than with a glass of bubbly? Here is your holiday guide to fabulous sparkling wines from around the world that deliver great quality and flavor at a reasonable price.
I intentionally excluded Champagne from this list as even entry level, non-vintage Champagne from the classic houses would cost you $40 and above.
Cava is my first choice every time I shop for sparkling wine. Most Cava comes from Catalonia in Northern Spain, where local grapes Macabeu, Parellada, and Xarello are blended to make delicious sparkler. It is made just like Champagne, but with different grapes and in the different part of the world.
Only sparkling wine produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France may call itself Champagne.
Basic Cava is a wonderful sparkling wine, mineral and zesty. It’s less sweet than Prosecco, but not as nutty as Vintage Champagne. For more complex flavors look for Vintage Cava (wine is made from the grapes of only one year’s harvest) or Cava aged on lees (at least 15 months for Cava Reserva and 30 months for Gran Reserva).
Few examples: Segura Viudas, Raventos i Blanc, Juve Y Camps, Avinyo
Most of the Italian sparkling wine is made in Northern Italy. Veneto region is the largest one in terms of sparkling wine production. This is where the most popular sparkler comes from – Prosecco. It is made from Glera grape using, so called, Tank Method (aka Methode Charmat – more affordable and efficient production method than the traditional one used for Champagne production). You can learn more about the difference between Champagne and Prosecco in one of my earlier posts.
If you love Prosecco, go for a premium quality during this holiday season. Look for Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene or DOCG Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze which are at the top of the Prosecco quality pyramid.
Italian Trento DOC
Amazing Metodo Classico from the mountainous region of Trentino in the Dolomites, part of the Italian Alps. It is named after the capital city of the region ‘Trento” and DOC, the official Italian wine naming system. The main grapes are Pinot Nero and Chardonnay with a tiny bit of Pinot Blanco and Pinot Meunier.
Due to the topography of the region and a wide temperature variation between day and night, the yields are low, but the wine is top quality with lots of personality. While lees aging requirements for Trento wines are very similar to those of Champagne – 15 months for non-vintage, 24 months for vintage, and 36 months for riserva – many producers age their wines even longer.
Few examples: Rotari, Ferrari, Altemasi
Another fantastic Methodo Classico named after the region in the northern part Lombardy (Italy). It is made of Pinot Nero, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc grape varieties, and is available in few different styles: non-vintage (aged 18 months on lees), Saten (50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Blanc, a bit less sparkling, aged for at least 24 months), Rose (25%Pinot Noir, 24 months on lees), Millesimato (single vintage, aged minimum for 30 months), and Riserva (60 months on lees).
Few examples: Berlucchi, Barone Pizzini, Bellavista
French Cremant Loire, Alsace, Bourgogne, Limoux, Jura
Sparkling wines made outside of the region of Champagne produced with the same winemaking method are typically labeled Cremant. They are a great alternative to Champagne, affordable and delicious. Some of the regions that specialize in Cremant include Loire, Alsace, Burgundy, Limoux, and Jura.
Made using the traditional method, Cremants might also be made from grapes other than the traditional Champagne varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, plus aging requirements are not that strict as with Champagne.
Few examples: Langlois Chateau Cremant de Loire Brut, Albert Mann Cremant d’Alsace, Monaine de Montbourgeau Cremant de Jura
American Sparkling is another great affordable option. US wine producers have used Champagne as a model for their sparkling wine, it is primarily made of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grape varieties. And as you may guess, the best US sparkling comes from cooler-climate vine-growing regions, such as Sonoma, Mendocino, and Oregon. When you buy American sparkling pay attention to the grape varieties used (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir tend to deliver better quality), aging period (expect more complex flavor for longer aged wine)
Few examples: Roederer Estate, Schramsberg
German and Austrian Sekt
SeKt is the term used for sparkling wines made in Germany or Austria. Most of base model Sekt is produced using Tank Method (like Prosecco), mainly with Riesling, Gruner Veltliner and other local grape varieties.
Premium quality Sekt comes from specific wine regions included in a category of Protected Designation of Origin. Look for specific wine region such as Rheingau, Mosel, Pfalz, the words ‘Klassiche Flaschengarung (meaning the Traditional Method), ‘Winzersekt’ – for exceptional quality, single-varietal German Sekt and ‘Resereve’ or ‘Grosse Reserve’ for top quality Austrian Sekt.
Few examples: Hofgut Falkenstein, Szigeti, Brundlemayer
South African Cap Classic
Methode Cap Classique (MCC) is the name used to refer to South African sparkling wines made by the traditional method, mainly from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varieties (other grapes are Chenin and PInotage). Vinification follows the same strict procedures as those of Champagne with a slight difference in aging requirements (less for MCC). Although the complexity of South African sparkling and Champagne won’t be the same, MCC is classic in style and a good value, reliable alternative to Champagne.
Few examples: Graham Beck