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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.