Among all of the classic Champagne pairings, nothing goes hand-in-hand with this French bubbly more than New Year’s Eve. Think back to all of the bottles you’ve shared in past years, along with a quiet or exciting moment, as the calendar turned from one to the next.
For many, New Year’s Eve is a time to reflect on the year that has passed and what the future brings. Consider the sparkling wines you’ve had this year — do you feel stuck with the same bottles? Make it your resolution to get out of your Champagne comfort zone and try some new bubbly for New Year’s Eve and beyond.
Let’s start with Champagne and then explore a few popular and rarer alternatives.
Champagne is a classic for a reason: it’s accessible yet complex, pairs brilliantly with various cuisines, and just makes you feel classy to pop open a bottle. However, this bubbly’s status as a go-to standard can make it a bit limited in scope.
Champagne is almost exclusively made with only three types of grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and/or Pinot Meunier. These grapes, used to make sparkling white and rosé wine, comprise 99% of the grapes grown in Champagne, with the final 1% split among Pinot Gris, Pinot Meslier, Arbane, and Voltis. It’s incredibly unlikely that you’ll find these other grapes in your go-to Champagne.
They also must be grown in its namesake Champagne region of France. Here, grapes thrive in chalky soils, uniquely influenced by temperate conditions from the ocean and severe continental temperatures, depending on the season.
There are also strict production standards for Champagne. This traditional method, also known as Méthode Champenoise, dates back to the late 17th century. A key element of this practice involves a secondary fermentation, which occurs in the bottle itself. You can attribute Champagne’s yeasty, bready, toasty qualities to this stage in the winemaking process. Though these factors are key in contributing to Champagne’s distinct texture, flavor, and overall character, you may find yourself wanting more.
WTSO carries several affordable alternatives Dom Perignon and Veuve Clicquot, two well-known brands. Consider some of the site’s all-time best-sellers, like Philippe Prié Brut Tradition, Baron-Fuenté Esprit, Boizel Blanc de Blancs, and Le Brun de Neuville La Croisée des Chemins Extra-Brut.
But what about sparkling wine from different grapes, a different region, or made in a different way?
Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine made from a grape called Glera in the Veneto region. If you’re looking for a significantly different bubbly from Champagne, Prosecco may offer an ideal alternative. Many consider this sparkler more approachable and accessible than Champagne. It’s typically more affordable and a bit sweeter, too.
For example, Prosecco uses a different production method than Champagne, known as the Charmat or Tank Method. Rather than fermenting within the bottle, the wine gets its bubbly texture from its time spent in a sealed tank. This process takes less time than Champagne, which speeds up production and allows winemakers to sell it at a lower price.
Prosecco is versatile as a mixer, as well — try it in your Mimosa at New Year’s brunch or in an Aperol Spritz with dinner. Rosé bottlings of Prosecco include Pinot Noir for a bit more structure, which contributes to its pink/red color.
One of WTSO’s most popular Prosecco bottlings is Serre Colsentà Valdobbiadene Dry.
Look to Crémant for sparkling wine that is similar to Champagne but a bit more adventurous. Like Champagne, Crémant comes in white and rosé offerings from French grapes, though it extends its reach to eight regions in the country, along with areas in Luxembourg and Belgium.
France controls which types of grapes each region can grow, but with Crémant, you are not limited to the three primary Champagne grapes. Take Crémant d’Alsace, for example. Here, you can find bottles with Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, Pinot Gris, Riesling, along with standard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay styles.
Head west to Loire and you’re bound to find sparkling wine made with Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. In Burgundy, winemakers craft sparkling bottles of Gamay, Melon de Bourgogne, and Sacy, along with the typical Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Crémant is also generally more affordable than Champagne. Take some of your favorite Champagnes and drink them alongside similar bottles of Crémant — you may be surprised at their similarity or find a new go-to favorite. After all, Crémant winemakers also use the traditional method for its creation.
Cava is Spanish sparkling wine available in both white and rosé styles. Like Crémant, it shares many similarities with Champagne, including its traditional winemaking process with secondary fermentation in the bottle.
Unlike Champagne, Cava primarily centers three Spanish grapes: Macabeu, Parellada, and Xarel·lo, though you may find bottles with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Garnacha, and Monastrell, too. Cava is typically not sweet and typically offered in Brut or Brut Nature bottlings.
Cava offers significant savings over Champagne, as well. If you’re hosting the New Year’s party and fretting about having to buy bubbly, Cava offers an affordable, comparable alternative. Your guests may not even notice the difference.
Sparkling rosé is a broad term that can apply to wines from across the world, though it perhaps most famously comes from Provence, France. The South of France is renowned for its light, accessible rosé, and its sparkling offerings are no different. It typically shares more qualities of prosecco due to winemakers’ use of the Charmat Method, which creates small, lively bubbles.
Many American winemakers make sparkling rosé, along with wine houses around the world. Check the label for grapes and production method for insight into its similarity to Champagne.
Explore A World of Sparkling Wine
Use your newfound knowledge of sparkling wine to discover some of the best bottles from around the world. Don’t forget — American winemakers have produced some great sparkling bottles, too. If you’re interested, check out the 2016 Secret Indulgence from the Boisset Collection, available on WTSO.
Whether you’re stocking up for a New Year’s Eve party, seeking a perfect bubbly pairing for dinner, or just looking for your new go-to sparkler, you do not need to break the bank with Champagne.