Sparkling Champagne alternatives for your next celebration.
The next time you’re ready to pop the cork to celebrate an anniversary, birthday or simply making it through the week, skip the tried-and-true Champagne and reach for one of these sparkling Champagne alternatives.
Nothing is trendier in bubbles right now than Pét-Nat, short for petillant naturel, a French winemaking term that means naturally sparkling. While Champagne is made with three main grape varietals, pét-nats allow the winemaker to get creative and use unusual grapes like Saperavi, Malvasia Bianca and Glera.
Traditional Champagne is produced by combining still dry wine with yeast and a sugary liqueur. The combination is bottled and aged and then a second in-bottle fermentation creates carbon dioxide that produces Champagne’s ICONIC bubbles. Pét-Nat is bottled while still in its first round of fermentation. This process is also known as methode-ancestral.
Because of the different vinification process, winemakers have less control over a pét-nat than they would Champagne, so different bottles will taste different. Pét-nat increases in dryness as it ages, and many are unfiltered and unfined so they might have a cloudy appearance. Low in alcohol, the wines are easy to pair with food and meant to be drunk within months of purchase.
PÉT-NATS TO TRY
Mtsvane Estate Georgian Sparkling Pét-Nat Saperavi Rosé 2021
Made from Georgia’s most popular grape, Saperavi, this 2021 pét-nat is a beautiful pink color and makes for an ideal light and refreshing aperitif. Less complex than Champagne, it’s easy to drink with notes of black and red fruit. Its balanced acidity pairs well with seafood, salads, or soft cheese.
Alta Colina 2022 Pét Nat
Made with 100 percent Estate Grenache, Alta Colina, this Paso Robles pét-nat may be bone dry, but it lights up your mouth with notes of ripe strawberry, watermelon and juicy peaches. A perfect pairing with a poolside charcuterie board.
Oniric Pét-Nat Blanc 2021
This Spanish pét-nat made from 70 percent Xarel.lo and 30 percent Muscat is a great sipper during the dog days of summer. An aromatic wine with floral notes and apple and citrus on the palate. Well-rounded with balanced acidity and minerality.
Thacher 2021 Pét-Nat
This blend of Grenache and Cinsault from Paso Robles family-run Thacher Winery and Vineyard reminds me of days sipping rosé in Nice. The wine bursts with strawberry and dare I say, fruity punch.
Champagne is like a Rolex, an obvious sign of luxury, while Franciacorta is like an understated Breguet. Located in Northern Italy along Lake Iseo to the city of Brescia, the DOCG designated Franciacorta has flown under the radar for years, despite producing the best sparkling wine in Italy.
If your only experience with Italian sparkling is Prosecco, it’s time to try its more complex cousin, Franciacorta. Made in Method Champenoise, Franciacorta is drier, more yeasty and less fruity than Prosecco. The grapes for Franciacorta must come from a designated vineyard and are limited to Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, and Pinot Bianco. Nonvintage Franciacorta must age for a minimum of 25 months after harvest, with 18 months in bottle with yeast contact. Vintage Franciacorta, also called Millesimato, can’t be released for 37 months after harvest and must spend 30 months in contact with the yeast.
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FRANCIACORTA TO TRY
Made with 95 percent Chardonnay and a splash of Pinot Noir, the Ferghettina Franciacorta is similar to a brut Champagne, but fresher and more youthful. On the palate notes of citrus and tree fruit and hazelnut tickle the tongue. Great pairing with shellfish, soft cheese and even pizza.
When you think of England, the royal family, afternoon tea and fish n chips are the first thing that come to mind, not bubbles. But thanks to climate change, Southeast England is becoming ideal to grow sparkling wine. There are over 100 wineries in the region, with many traditional Champagne Houses like Tattinger buying vineyards in the British countryside.
Most English sparkling wine is made in the traditional method using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, though some use the Seyval grape that is unique to England. English fizz is often aged for a shorter period resulting in bubbles that are more fruit forward than Champagne.
ENGLISH SPARKLING TO TRY
Hattingley Valley Classic Reserve NV
Made of a blend of the three traditional Champagne grapes, the Hattingley Valley Classic Reserve has a classic Champagne taste with vanilla, citrus, apple and pear notes. High acidity and a long, crisp aftertaste make it an ideal aperitif.
If you love wine from France, but want a Champagne alternative, head straight for Crémant. Eight appellations in France produce Crémant, with different regions using different grapes resulting in a wide range of expressions of Crémant.
Like Champagne, there are strict rules winemakers must follow to call their bubbles Crémant. While each region can impose additional rules, all Crémant wine must use hand-harvested grapes, whole bunch pressing with limited must extraction, and the wine must spend at least nine months on lees. This aging process means that Crémant will have the creamy, toasty notes that are also hallmark of Champagne.
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CRÉMANT TO TRY
Domaine Boeckel Crémant d’Alsace Brut Nature
Since the 1800s, Domaine Boeckel has produced wine in the Alsace. Fans of low sugar wines will appreciate this 100 percent Pinot Blanc crémant that offers subtle yeast and notes of lemon, citrus and apples. A great pairing with oysters.
Poulet et Fils Crémant de Die
This award-winning Crémant from the Rhone region blends 85 percent Clairette with Aligoté, Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains. The bouquet bursts with notes of lemon, peach, apple, honey and rose. A good balance of sweetness and acidity.
Meyer-Fonné Crémant d’Alsace Brut Extra NV
From third generation winemaker Félix Myer, this Crémant from Auxerrois, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir grapes has bright acidity and apple and citrus notes. It’s crisp, dry and utterly refreshing.
The next time you’re ready to raise a glass, making it one of these Champagne alternatives is sure to add a fun twist to your celebration.