With prices often at around £20 a bottle, and with top grande marque Champagnes like Krug or Bollinger costing a great deal more, there’s no denying that the world’s most famous sparkling wine is an expensive option. So, if you’re on a budget, what are the best sparkling alternatives to drink on a self indulgent night at home?
If you have the money, then you might still be considering Champagne. And why not? Part of the reason it’s expensive is because quality is usually very high, and it’s often aged for over a year to help develop all those lovely bready and brioche flavours it typically has.
But there are many other parts of France, such as the Loire Valley, which produce sparkling wine using the same Traditional or Champagne Method, and which can be bought for around half the price. They might not have been aged for as long as Champagne (and won’t always have quite the same complexity of flavour) but are usually very drinkable. Look for the words Méthode Traditionelle on the label.
In addition to France, the two largest European producers of sparkling wine are Spain and Italy. If Spanish sparkling wine has been labelled as Cava (which most is) then by law it must be made by the Traditional Method, and at the top end it’s extremely good. Cava can also be picked up for bargain basement prices, but beware – quality can be variable here. Prosecco is the best known Italian sparkling wine. It’s light, easy drinking, has lots of citrussy fruit, and there is plenty of good stuff available for around a tenner a bottle.
Many good sparkling wines produced in Australia, New Zealand or California are also less expensive than Champagne, although the top end wines are every bit as expensive. Again, look for the words Traditional Method on the bottle. New Zealand is a favourite of mine, as its relatively cool climate makes it an ideal place for the production of sparkling wine.
Last, but not least, consider England! Many UK vineyards have been are planted on the South Downs (which share the same geology as the Champagne region) and produce very high quality sparkling wine – but with the price tag to match.
Courtesy of Tom Lockhart at the The Brompton Wine Company, London, SW14.
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