Tag Archives: Cremant

Alsace wines

Spotlight on Alsace

Sparkling, dry or sweet, there’s a wine from Alsace to match your taste.

Alsace is located in the northeast of France near the border with Germany. To find it on a map, look for Paris, then move your finger east, through Champagne. Like Champagne, Alsace produces sparkling wine using the traditional method, called Crémant d’Alsace. And like Germany, you’ll find Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc are also grown, as is a small amount of Pinot Noir.

The wines from Alsace are ideal for the transition from summer to fall flavors. Try one of these wines:

Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé

Lucien Albrecht Cremant RoseIf you’re new to sparkling wine from Alsace, the Crémant from Lucien Albrecht (both the rosé and white) are an excellent place to begin your discovery. The AG has been a longtime fan — we first wrote about the Brut Reserve in 2008. The rosé is 100% Pinot Noir that was whole cluster hand picked, then gently pressed in a pneumatic press.

Coral-pink in color, the Crémant has small, energetic bubbles. Crisp flavors of wild strawberry, red cherry and white raspberry culminate in a soft finish that has a hint of cream.
$20, 12% alcohol

Joseph Cattin Crémant d’Alsace Brut

Joseph Cattin Cremant BrutNot as dry and more fruity than the Lucien Albrecht, the Joseph Cattin evokes the freshness of biting into an apricot picked at the peak of ripeness. This sparkling wine is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay. The grapes were hand picked, then slow crushed and cold fermented to preserve their character.

Effervescent with aromas of stone fruit and freshly baked bread, the Crémant has flavors of apricot, white peach and pluot, with lingering sweetness on the finish.
$19, 12% alcohol

Dopff & Irion Cuvée René Dopff Riesling 2012

Dopff & Irion RieslingThe name of this wine pays tribute to the man who took over the domaine in 1945 and implemented a new, terroir driven approach to winemaking in Alsace. This wine is made entirely from Riesling from Les Murailles, a single vineyard located on a hillside near the village of Riquewihr.

Pale yellow in color and very aromatic, the wine starts sweet but is immediately energized by bright acidity. Honeysuckle, nectarine and green apple come together with a hint of flinty minerality for a crisp finish.
$20, 12% alcohol

Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Les Princes Abbés 2009

Schlumberger RieslingThe history of Domaines Schlumberger dates from the early 1800s, though winemaking in Guebwiller goes back much earlier. During the 12th century it became one of the more important towns in Alsace because of its winemaking, thanks to the Princes Abbots (Princes Abbés) who were the first to sell the wine. Approximately half of the Riesling grapes for this wine come from Grand Cru vineyards.

With a light yellow color, the wine opens with floral aromas and a touch of petrol. Orange blossom and wildflower honey flavors give way to crisper clementine, white peach, green apple and subtle shale notes. Medium acidity adds structure and a supple mouthfeel. The finish is clean and fresh.
$20, 12% alcohol

Want to learn more about Alsace? Visit www.winesofalsace.com.

Champagne and Beyond: Celebrate 2014 with French Sparkling Wine

France is king when it comes to bubbly. Whether you’re looking for Champagne or a great value Crémant, there’s a French sparkling wine to match your taste and your budget. Ring in the New Year with one of these bottles.

Ruinart Brut Rosé
Champagne

Ruinart Brut Rose

Ruinart is the oldest Champagne house, founded in 1729. Their elegant and aromatic rosé is truly a pleasure to sip. The Champagne is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (approximately 45% and 55% respectively). Around 18% of the Pinot Noir is vinified, which adds color and flavor to the final Champagne. The Brut Rosé is a lovely pink-orange color, and has notes of cherry, raspberry, wild strawberry and a hint of rose petal.
$75

Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve
Champagne

Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve

Everything you look for in a high quality Champagne, you’ll find it in the Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve. It is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier that spent three years aging in Gallo-Roman chalk cellars. It is deep gold in color, with aromas of freshly baked brioche and complex flavors of white apricot, mango, ripe lemon, plum, praline and almond.
$50

Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois
Champagne

Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois

This Champagne is made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and vinified entirely in oak (‘sous bois’ means ‘under oak’). It has an intriguing mix of fresh and dried fruit aromas and flavors. Lemon, orange peel, dried yellow fig and dried apricot are layered with grilled brioche, almond and toffee, and the mouthfeel is rich and creamy.
$75

Domaine de la Louvetrie, “Atmosphères” Jo Landron
Vin Mousseux de Qualite

Atmospheres Jo Landron

This sparkling wine from the Loire Valley is made in the traditional method from 80% Folle Blanche and 20% Pinot Noir. The vineyard is located in the Muscadet region and is certified organic and biodynamic. Crisp flavors of Meyer lemon and white grapefruit are complemented by a chalky minerality.
$18

Léon Palais Blanc de Blancs Brut
Crémant de Jura

Leon Palais Brut

This dry sparkling wine made in the traditional method comes from the Jura region in eastern France. It is made from Chardonnay, Folle Blanche and Ugni Blanc grapes. Flavors of pear and granny smith apple culminate in a soft citrus finish.
$16

Helfrich Brut
Crémant d’Alsace

Helfrich Cremant d'Alsace

This sparkling wine comes from Alsace, located east of Champagne near the border with Germany. It is made entirely from the Pinot Blanc grape in the traditional method. Straw yellow in color, this Crémant has flavors of fresh lemon, grapefruit, white flowers and toast that culminate in a crisp finish.
$20

>> Related Articles:
Crémant: France’s Alternative to Champagne
A Guide to Sparkling Wine

Helfrich: White Wines from Alsace

Elegance is the word that comes to mind when sipping the wines of Helfrich. A limited selection of white wines from the family-owned winery in Alsace, France are now available in the United States.

Helfrich winesThe Helfrich Cremant d’Alsace Brut demonstrates that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a high quality French sparkling wine. Made entirely from Pinot Blanc, it has notes of fresh lemon, white grapefruit, white flowers and toast. Click here to see a full article on the Helfrich Cremant d’Alsace.
$20, 12.1% abv

The grapes for the 2012 Helfrich Pinot Blanc come from the Couronne d’Or (Golden Crown), an association of vineyards and winemakers in the middle of Alsace. Tart citrus aromas introduce flavors of lemon custard, white grapefruit and subtle orange blossom, with notes of white flowers that expand as the wine warms in the glass. Pair the Helfrich Pinot Blanc with salads, shellfish, white fish and Asian dishes.
$15, 12.96% abv

The grapes for the Helfrich Pinot Gris Grand Cru and Gewurztraminer Grand Cru come from the Steinklotz vineyard, one of only 51 vineyards in Alsace that has the Grand Cru designation. It is located at the northern end of the Alsatian wine trail and is one of the oldest vineyards recorded in Alsace.

Helfrich Grand CruThe 2011 Helfrich Pinot Gris Grand Cru offers a great balance of sweetness and acidity. The nose and palate are dominated by stone fruit – apricot, white peach and lychee are layered with gardenia, orange blossom honey and a subtle hint of smoke. It is a touch less sweet than the Gewurztraminer. Pair the 2011 Helfrich Pinot Gris Grand Cru with baked ham, roasted chicken and seafood dishes.
$20, 12.5% abv

Ripe fruit and delicate floral notes make the 2009 Helfrich Gewurztraminer Grand Cru a real treat. The nose is wonderfully fragrant with honeysuckle, gardenia and apricot aromas. Lush flavors of orange blossom, tangerine, wildflower honey and gentle minerality culminate in a finish with lingering candied orange and ginger. The Helfrich Gewurztraminer is excellent as a dessert wine, or can be paired with lobster, scallops, spicy Asian dishes and soft and aged cheese.
$20, 12.61% alcohol

More White Wines | Red Wines | Under $20

AG Pick: Helfrich Crémant d’Alsace

A birthday. An anniversary. A Wednesday. If you’re looking for a Champagne alternative to celebrate a special occasion or are just in the mood for a glass of bubbly, try a bottle of the Helfrich Crémant d’Alsace Brut. Made using the traditional method like Champagne but costing around $20, it’s a bottle you can enjoy any night of the week.

Helfrich Cremant d'AlsaceCrémant is sparkling wine from France that is made outside of the Champagne region. As indicated by the name, this sparkling wine comes from Alsace, located east of Champagne near the border with Germany. The grapes for the Helfrich Crémant d’Alsace come from a vineyard located at the foot of the Vosges Mountains.

Helfrich Cremant d'AlsaceCrémant may be made with a variety of different grapes, not just the ones used in Champagne (those would be Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier). The Helfrich Crémant d’Alsace is 100% Pinot Blanc, a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir that thrives in the Alsace region.

Click here for more information on Crémant

This dry sparkling wine is straw yellow in color and has subtle lemon aromas. The citrus notes expand on the palate, with flavors of fresh lemon, white grapefruit, white flowers and toast. With its small bubbles, the Crémant is delicate and fresh in the mouth and culminates in a crisp finish.

In addition to being enjoyed as an aperitif, the Helfrich Crémant d’Alsace can be paired with a variety of foods including seafood, shellfish, hot and cold soups, salads and fruit-based desserts.

$20, 12.1% alcohol by volume

White Wines | Red Wines | Under $20

A Guide to Sparkling Wine

‘Tis the season to toast with Champagne!

When you’re selecting that bottle of bubbly for your celebration there are many options besides the traditional French sparking wine.

Not sure what the differences are among all the varieties of bubbly? This guide will help explain why all Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wines are Champagne.

Champagne

Champagne is sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France. By national law and international treaty, only sparkling wines from this appellation may be called Champagne. There are more than one hundred Champagne houses and 19,000 smaller vine-growing producers in Champagne.

Champagne is made with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. With the dark skinned Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the lack of skin contact during fermentation produces a white wine.  “Blanc de Blanc” Champagnes, meaning white from white, are made from 100% Chardonnay. “Blanc de Noir” Champagnes, meaning white from black, are made from Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier or a mix of the two. Rosé Champagne is produced either by leaving the the skins of the black grapes in the juice for a brief time or by adding a small amount of still Pinot Noir red wine.

Champagne is made in the traditional method (Méthode Champenoise) where the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle to give it carbonation. After at least a year and a half of aging (during which time the bottle is manipulated so the lees settle in the neck of the bottle), the neck is frozen and pressure forces out the ice containing the lees. After a small amount of syrup is added to maintain the liquid level, the bottle is quickly corked.

Most of the Champagne produced is non-vintage. Champagne houses will only make vintage Champagnes during exceptional years; these can generally age longer than non-vintage Champagnes and cost more. Vintage Champagnes must be composed of at least 85% of the grapes from that year.

Champagnes range from dry to sweet, as indicated on the label with the following terms: Brut Natural or Brut Zéro, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Sec or Extra Dry, Sec, Demi-sec and Doux.

Crémant

Crémant is sparkling wine from France that is not made in the Champagne region. There are seven appellations which include this designation in their name: Crémant d’Alsace, Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Die, Crémant du Jura, Crémant de Limoux and Crémant de Loire.

Like Champagne, Crémant is made in the traditional method. It may contain one or a blend of several grapes, as not all grapes grow in all regions. The most common grapes include Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.

By French law, Crémant must be harvested by hand with yields not exceeding a set amount for each AOC. The wines must be aged for a minimum of one year.

Cava

Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine from the Penedès region in Catalonia. It is made in the traditional method with one or a blend of three Spanish varietals: Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Subirat may also be used. Cava can be dry or sweet, as indicated by the term found on the label: brut nature, brut (extra dry), seco (dry), semiseco (medium) and dulce (sweet).

Prosecco

Prosecco is a sparking wine from the Veneto region in northeast Italy. It is made from the Prosecco grape and can be both fully sparkling (spumante) or lightly sparkling (frizzante). Unlike Champagne, Prosecco is produced using the Charmat method in which the secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. This makes the wine less expensive to produce. Prosecco is labeled brut, extra dry or dry, depending on the level of sweetness (with dry having the most residual sugar).

Asti Spumanti

This slightly sweet sparkling wine comes from the Asti province in Piedmont, in northwest Italy. It is made from the Moscato grape and is low in alcohol (around 8%). This can be made in the traditional method, though usually Asti Spumanti is produced using the Charmat method. Moscato d’Asti is a lightly sparkling version of Asti. Both are often served with dessert or as an after dinner drink because of their sweetness.

Franciacorta

This sparkling wine comes from the Lombardy region in north central Italy. It is made in the traditional method predominantly from Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc), and may contain a small amount of Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir). Non-vintage Franciacorta is aged for at least 18 months on lees, while vintage Franciacorta is aged for at least 30 months on lees. The sweetness is designated on the label using the same terms used for Champagne.

Sekt

Sekt is sparkling wine from Germany. About 95% is produced using the Charmat method, with just a small percentage made using the traditional method. Sekt is made from Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Sometimes the wine used is imported from other western European countries.

New World Sparkling Wines

American sparkling wines may be produced in the traditional method or the Charmat method. California sparkling wines tend to be made from the Champagne grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. There are no minimum requirements for aging in the U.S. unlike in Champagne. Due in part to the state’s favorable climate and growing wine industry, several Champagne houses set up wineries in northern California including Moët et Chandon’s Domaine Chandon, Louis Roederer’s Roederer Estate and Taittinger‘s Domaine Carneros.

Australian sparkling wine is produced using either the traditional or Charmat method. It is made from Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, though sparkling Shiraz is gaining popularity.

Cap Classique is a South African sparkling wine produced using the traditional method. It is made most often from Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc, and less often from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Tips for serving sparkling wines:

Sparkling wine should be served cold (between 45 and 48 °F), and in a Champagne flute. The shorter and wider Victorian coupe is not as ideal because it lets the aromas escape and over-oxygenates the wine.

To open a bottle of sparkling wine without spillage, place your thumb on top of the cork, wrapping your fingers gently around the neck.  Hold the bottle at a 45 degree angle.  Using your other hand, twist the bottle to ease out the cork.  Make sure the bottle isn’t pointed at anyone in case the cork shoots out unexpectedly.

Cremant: France’s Alternative to Champagne

There’s so much more to French sparkling wine than just Champagne. Sparkling wine is produced all over France using the same traditional method (and often same grapes) as Champagne. Called Crémant, the sparkling wine can be of the same high quality as Champagne, though typically costing much less.

Click here for Champagne facts and figures

There are seven appellations which include this designation in their name: Crémant d’Alsace, Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Die, Crémant du Jura, Crémant de Limoux and Crémant de Loire.

Crémant is not limited to the three grapes of Champagne (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier). Instead it may be made from one or a blend of each region’s native grapes, which can produce a range of flavors not found in Champagne.

Don’t limit yourself to Champagne – the variety of Crémant produced in France guarantees you’ll find several that you love.

Click here to read about sparkling wines produced around the world

Here are some Crémants to try:

Crémant de Bordeaux

Jaillance Cuvée de l’Abbaye Brut Crémant de Bordeaux ($19)

This sparkling wine is made entirely from Semillon, one of the two main white wine grapes in Bordeaux (Sauvignon Blanc is the other). This Crémant is aged on the lees for 24 months.

Dry, crisp and elegant, the Jaillance Cuvée de l’Abbaye has all the desirable characteristics you look for in a brut sparkling wine. It is extremely pale yellow in color, with round and fresh flavors. Ripe lemon, white grapefruit, white raspberries, almond and a touch of brioche are enhanced by small bubbles.
Click here to read a full review of the Jaillance Crémant

Crémant de Loire

De Chanceny Crémant de Loire Brut ($14)

This sparkling wine is made from 70% Chenin Blanc, 15% Chardonnay and 15% Cabernet Franc, all grapes grown in the Loire region. The grapes were hand-picked from 30 different families of growers, and the sparkling wine was aged for 18 months in cellars that date back to the 12th century.

The sparkling wine is pale straw yellow in color, as the juice from the Cabernet Franc grapes did not have contact with the color-imparting skins. The flavors from this red wine grape enhance the flavors of the two white wine grapes, adding a slight hint of white raspberry to the white grapefruit, lemon, pear and toast notes.

Crémant du Jura

Domaine Berthet-Bondet Crémant du Jura ($19)

Jura is perhaps the least well-known wine region in France, located just east of Burgundy. Its perched village of Château-Chalon (where Domaine Berthet-Bondet is located), is classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France.

This Crémant is made from Chardonnay and Savagnin, the two white wine grapes of the Jura. It is a lovely mix of citrus and white flowers. Flavors of lemon, white grapefruit and golden apple culminate in a dry and refreshing finish.

Crémant d’Alsace

Jean Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Reserve ($18)

This sparkling wine is made entirely from Pinot Blanc, a white wine grape that is a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir. Most Crémant d’Alsace is made from Pinot Blanc, though it may also be made from Pinot Gris, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The Jean Albrecht Crémant is pale straw yellow in color with small bubbles. Dry and delicate flavors of white citrus and toast plus a hint of sweet apricot make this sparkling wine really enjoyable to drink.

Crémant de Bourgogne

Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne Cuvée Brut ($10)

With Chardonnay and Pinot Noir being the main grapes of Burgundy (Bourgogne in French), this region produces sparkling wines that are very similar to Champagne.

The Blason de Bourgogne Crémant has flavors of pear, apple and toasted bread that culminate in a crisp finish that has a hint of toasted almonds. With its small energetic bubbles this sparkling wine is easy to drink and light on the tongue, with a price tag that’s hard to beat.

 

AG Pick: Jaillance Cuvee de l’Abbaye Cremant de Bordeaux

If you love French sparkling wine but are turned off by the high price of Champagne, make Crémant your celebratory bubbly.

Crémant is the name for the sparkling wine produced in France outside of the Champagne region. Made in the same method as Champagne but typically costing much less, Crémant is the perfect blend of the finesse and flavors you look for in a sparkling wine.

The great thing about Crémant is that it is not limited to the three grapes of Champagne (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier). Crémant is made from each region’s native grapes, which can mean a wider variety of flavors than what you find in Champagne.

For a wonderful taste of Crémant in general and Crémant de Bordeaux in particular, try the Jaillance Cuvée de l’Abbaye Brut, AOC Crémant de Bordeaux. Made entirely from Semillon grapes, this wine has mouth-filling fruit flavors that will make you a Crémant devotee.

Semillon is one of the two main white wine grapes in Bordeaux, along with Sauvignon Blanc. The sparkling wine is produced by méthode Champenoise (also called the traditional method), with the second fermentation taking place in the bottle. The Cuvée de l’Abbaye is aged on the lees for 24 months.

Right away you’ll notice how pale the Jaillance Cuvée de l’Abbaye is — extremely light yellow, almost without any color. This seems in contrast with the round and fresh flavors you get in each sip. Ripe lemon, white grapefruit, white raspberries, almond and a touch of brioche are enhanced by small bubbles. Dry, crisp and elegant, the Jaillance Cuvée de l’Abbaye has all the desirable characteristics you look for in a brut sparkling wine.

A bottle of the Jaillance Cuvée de l’Abbaye Brut Crémant de Bordeaux costs $19.

12% alcohol by volume

Champagne Alternatives for Valentine’s Day

When you’re toasting with that special someone this Valentine’s Day, you don’t need to splurge on Champagne.  Excellent sparkling wine is produced around the world using the same method and often with the same varietals (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier).  And there’s an added bonus of seeking sparkling wines outside of Champagne – often they come with a much lower price tag.

A quick note on Champagne production: Champagne is produced using the “traditional method,” during which the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle.  After the first fermentation, a measured amount of sugar and yeast is added to the dry still wine to initiate fermentation in the sealed bottle, producing the pressurized gas that gives the sparkling wine its bubbles.

Click here for more facts and figures on Champagne

Here are some Champagne alternatives for Valentine’s Day:

Crémant

You don’t have to leave France to find an alternative to Champagne.  Crémant is sparkling wine made in other regions, using the traditional method.  There are seven appellations which include this designation in their name: Crémant d’Alsace, Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Die, Crémant du Jura, Crémant de Limoux and Crémant de Loire

Crémant may contain one or a blend of several grapes, as not all grapes grow in all regions.  The most common grapes include Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.

Suggested wines:

Jean Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Reserve ($18)
This Alsace sparkling wine is made in the traditional method from 100% Pinot Blanc.  Delicate and dry with elegant notes of apricot and toast, this Crémant is always a crowd-pleaser.

Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne Cuvée Brut ($10)
This sparkling wine from Burgundy is easy to drink and light on the tongue.  Aromas of pear, apple and toasted bread continue to develop on the palate, culminating in a crisp finish that has a hint of toasted almonds.

Franciacorta

Franciacorta is Italy’s answer to Champagne.  It comes from the Lombardy region in north central Italy and is made using the traditional method.  The grapes used in Franciacorta are mainly Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc), along with a small amount of Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir).

Franciacorta may not be as well known in the United States as Prosecco, but its high quality means it should be sought out by bubbly enthusiasts.

Suggested wine:

Ca’ Del Bosco “Cuvee Prestige” Franciacorta DOCG ($43)
Made mainly from Chardonnay (75%), along with Pinot Bianco and Pinot Nero, everything about this wine is elegant.  Pale lemon yellow in color with citrus, floral and toast notes, this sparkling wine is delicate and refreshing with nice acidity.

Prosecco

Prosecco is a familiar name for people who enjoy budget-friendly bubbly.  Prosecco is a sparking wine made from the Prosecco grape and produced in the Veneto region in northeast Italy.  It can be both fully sparkling (spumante) or lightly sparkling (frizzante).

Unlike Franciacorta, Prosecco is not made using the traditional method.  Instead the “charmat” method is used, whereby the wine undergoes its second fermentation in stainless steel tanks, rather than in the bottle.  This is a less expensive way of producing sparkling wine.

Suggested wine:

Nino Franco Prosecco Rustico ($17)
Frothy, delicate and fresh, this is a great sparkling wine if you prefer your Prosecco on the dry side.  Lively flavors of apple, pear and citrus culminate in a crisp finish.

Cava

Cava is an ideal sparkling wine for people who are looking for budget-friendly Champagne alternatives.  Though generally around the same price point as Prosecco, this sparkling wine from Spain has an advantage – it is produced using the traditional method.

Cava is mainly produced in the Penedès region in Catalonia.  It is traditionally a blend of the Spanish varietals Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo, though Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Subirat may also be used.

Suggested wines:

Poema Brut Cava ($9)
Easy to find (try Publix), and costing less than $10, this Cava is hard to beat.  A blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo, this sparkling wine is fresh and lively with subtle citrus flavors.

Codorníu Pinot Noir Rosé Brut ($16)
With its bright pink color, this Cava is perfect for Valentine’s Day.  Made from Pinot Noir instead of the traditional Spanish varietals, this sparkling wine has flavors of strawberry, raspberry and toast that come together in a crisp citrus finish.

Cap Classique

Cap Classique is what South Africa calls its sparkling wine.  It is produced using the traditional method, from Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.

If you like staying ahead of the trend, seek out a bottle of Cap Classique this Valentine’s Day — relatively new to many U.S. markets (which may make it tough to find), this sparkling wine is an excellent alternative to other New World sparkling wines.

Suggested wines:

Graham Beck Brut Rosé ($17)
Pale peachy-pink in color, Rosé doesn’t get any prettier.  This sparkler from the Western Cape is 58% Chardonnay and 42% Pinot Noir. Pleasantly sophisticated in flavor with hints of raspberries and cherries, it’s a fun and elegant sparkling wine.

Graham Beck “Bliss” Demi-Sec ($17)
If you’re looking for a sparkling wine that is a touch sweet but will still appeal to those who prefer it dry, try this demi-sec.  It is a mix of 54% Chardonnay and 47% Pinot Noir, with apple and citrus flavors that are rounded out by sweet almond, praline and a hint of honey.

Brachetto d’Acqui

On a holiday that’s saturated with the color red, Brachetto d’Acqui fits in perfectly.  This deep garnet sparkling wine comes from the Piedmont region in northwest Italy and is made from the Brachetto grape.  Like Prosecco, it is produced using the Charmat method.

Suggested wine:

Banfi “Rosa Regale” Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG ($21)
This sparkling wine is easy to spot at a wine shop because of its vivid magenta color – and yes, that’s the color of the wine inside the clear bottle.  Rosa Regale says romance, with its notes of fresh raspberries, strawberries and rose petals.  Slightly sweet and light and body, it’s perfect as an after dinner drink and goes great with chocolate.

AG Pick Under $10: Blason de Bourgogne Cremant de Bourgogne Cuvee Brut

Looking for a sparkling wine that’s just like Champagne but costs much less? Pick up a bottle of Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne Cuvée Brut.

This sparkling wine is nearly identical to Champagne. It is made in France, from the same varietals used to make Champagne and produced in the same method as Champagne. It just can’t be called Champagne because it’s not from that region; it’s produced just a hop, skip and a four hour drive away in Burgundy.

Besides Burgundy, Crémants are made in several regions in France including Alsace, Loire and Bordeaux. For the quality and the price, Crémant is hard to beat.

Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne Cuvée Brut comes in at just under $10 a bottle. For the price, this Crémant is extremely elegant and flavorful. Aromas of pear, apple and toasted bread continue to develop on the palate, culminating in a crisp finish that has a hint of toasted almonds. With its small, energetic bubbles this sparkling wine is easy to drink and light on the tongue, with enough going on to keep you interested through your final sip.

A bottle of the Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne Cuvée Brut costs between $9 and $10.

Red Wines | White Wines | More Under $20

AG Pick Under $20: Jean Albrecht Cremant D’Alsace Brut Reserve

If you’re looking for a nice bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate the New Year, skip Champagne and head farther east in France to Alsace. Crémant D’Alsace is a sparkling wine made in the traditional Champenoise method but doesn’t carry the same price tag as Champagne. For the taste and the cost, Crémant D’Alsace is hard to beat.

The Alsace region is on the eastern border of France, adjacent to Germany and Switzerland. Crémant D’Alsace is mostly made from Pinot Blanc grapes but may also contain Pinot Gris, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes.

My pick for a great Crémant D’Alsace is the Brut Reserve from Jean Albrecht. I found it for $17.99 at my local wine and spirits store. It’s a Blanc de Blanc made from 100% Pinot Blanc. It’s a beautiful pale straw yellow in color with small energetic bubbles. The taste is subtle and delicate. It’s dry and crisp with light toast and a hint of apricot. The gentle fruit flavor makes this sparkling wine really enjoyable to drink. It’s just the right amount to serve to people who like their sparkling wine dry, and will please the palates of people who prefer some sweetness. Champagne drinkers may be converted to Crémant D’Alsace drinkers after trying a glass.

The complex and delicious taste at a relatively low price point makes Jean Albrecht’s Crémant D’Alsace Brut Reserve a great value. It’s a sparkling wine I’m looking forward to serving at my New Year’s Eve party.