Here at Weekly Tasting, we’re sipping bubbly and feeling lovely. We love sparkling wine and think everyone should be drinking much more of it. Sparkling wine, namely Champagne, has gotten a reputation as a wine meant solely for celebration – probably because a good bottle isn’t cheap. There are different ways of producing sparkling wines, but Champagne is particularly special because there are many rules involved in its process. The Champenoise are very protective of their brand, but lucky for us, there are plenty of wines made around the world that also use this “traditional method” (aka Champagne method) and won’t break the bank. Here are some of our faves:
- Crémant – Wines that use the label “Crémant” are made in France (and Luxembourg) but outside of the Champagne region. They can come from Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone Valley, the Loire, and the Languedoc. While Champagne can be made from any combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, Crémant is made from grapes that grow in their respective regions, which is pretty cool (well, we think it’s cool). So Crémant de Bordeaux could be made from Merlot or Cab Franc, and Crémant d’Alsace could be made using Riesling (yum!).
- Cava – Cava is Spain’s answer to Champagne. Unlike Champagne, however, Cava is not a specific region in France. Instead, it refers to the style of traditionally made sparkling wine made in the northwest region of Cataluña, as well as in Valencia, Aragón, Navarra, Rioja, and the Basque country. This Spanish bubbly can be made from a variety of different grapes, but you’ll most often find blends of Macabeo, Xarel·lo, Parellada, and Chardonnay. Don’t worry about trying to pronounce these varieties.
- Franciacorta – It’s likely that you haven’t heard of Franciacorta, but that’s because this region in Lombardy doesn’t have a very long history of sparkling wine production. When people think Italian bubbly, Prosecco and Asti are what typically come to mind. These wines are pretty darn tasty (and super inexpensive), but they’re made in less time-consuming ways, don’t require extensive (or any) aging, and are more fruity and lighthearted. Franciacorta, however, is made just like Champagne and can be produced from any combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc).
- South African Cap Classique – The Méthode Cap Classique, or MCC, is South Africa’s version of a traditional method sparkling wine. This term is akin to “Cava,” because it refers to the method, rather than a region (Champagne and Franciacorta are both regions). While most producers of MCC sparkling wine use the same grape varieties as those in Champagne, there are fewer restrictions here – so you might see some made with Chenin Blanc or even the super funky red variety known as Pinotage.
Remember: the method used to produce these wines is the same, but the main difference lies in the grapes used and where in the world they come from. These wines are just as tasty and complex as Champagne, and you can buy them at a fraction of the price.
Now you have the perfect excuse to celebrate all the little things in life – like the fact that you ate a vegetable this week, managed to put two matching socks on, or made it out of bed before noon on a Sunday. Cheers!