Stellar Champagne Alternatives From Around the World
Champagne will always be special, and has had the greatest marketing of any wine, ever.
But good sparkling wines come from all over the world--and the variety you can taste is part of the fun. These are winners that have lately crossed my path.
Cava, which hails from the Penedès region, is very much an everyday wine in Spain, and that means that it's made in big quantities, much of it fairly average. But if you pick correctly, you can find excellent ones—by law, they are made the same way as Champagnes are, with second fermentation in the bottle (the so-called methode traditionelle).
I found a Cava outlier I really like: Canals Canals Rosat Reserva Brut Nature NV ($20), one of the most robust rosé sparklers I've had in some time. The super-dark red color is the hint you need that this one is no light aperitif wine, and it's made from the brawny grapes Monastrell and Garnacha. This has major black cherry flavors and you could serve it with a meal for sure--a super match for duck with dried black cherries, for instance.
Franciacorta, in the Lombardy area, makes Italy's best-regarded sparklers, again made in the traditional Champagne-style method. The go-to here is Ca' del Bosco, founded and run by the great Maurizio Zanella. The Ca' del Bosco Cuvée Prestige ($35) is only Zanella's entry-level wine, but it's a Krug-like beauty with toasty richness and a very fine bead, as the bubbles in Champagne are referred to. Elegance personified.
Prosecco, like Cava, makes oceans of wine. Picking the right producer is crucial. I'd recommend anything that Adami makes, but especially Adami Bosco di Gica Brut Prosecco ($18), which has peppery, grapefruit flavors and something just slightly savory. It does its job, which is to make you hungry, and to point forward to a feast to come.
Sparklers are not a focus in this country, which has kept its eye on Sauvignon Blanc and, increasingly, Pinot Noir. But the cool climate that prevails in all of its regions is perfect for bubbly.
Kim Crawford Small Parcels Fizz Methode Traditionnelle Sparkling ($35) is an incredibly delicate wine that takes a minute to make its impression. This is a slow burn, not a firecracker. Made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it's lemony and crisp, with a long finish, and a remarkable poise throughout. Serve this one and ask guests where they think it came from—you'll stump everyone.