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Is it time to start looking for Champagne alternatives?
Champagne is a luxury item so we expect to pay more for it. However, as any Champagne enthusiast has noticed, the Champagne price has gone way up in the last two years. If you haven’t noticed it during your shopping, here’s the hard data: reports show that on average the Champagne price went up 30% during 2021 (and has kept steady in 2022).
And the bad news doesn’t stop there. Wine reps around the world expect that a champagne shortage will increase Champagne prices even more during the years 2023 – 2025. Bindiya Vakil, CEO of Resilinc, a leading supply chain monitoring corporation, paints a gloomy picture:
“It looks like supply chain issues will last into 2023. Labor and raw material shortages, port bottlenecks and climate change are crucial components delaying the production and shipment of Champagne globally. Unfortunately, we’re seeing that supply can’t keep up with an increased demand for Champagne.”
So, why not start looking also at other sparkling wine options?
Keep reading, and you’ll get to our suggestions of awesome sparkling wines just as delicious and luxurious as Champagne.
Before we jump straight into Champagne alternatives, let’s review what makes Champagne special.
What makes Champagne special
What’s the difference between sparkling wine and champagne?
We see a lot of confusion, with people thinking they are drinking champagne when the stuff in their glass is not actual Champagne. Sparkling wine is a big category that includes Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, etc. Champagne is one small portion under that big sparkling wine umbrella.
In order for a sparkling wine to be called Champagne, it must be produced in the region of Champagne (France), and follow strict Champagne denomination farming and vinification rules. Wines produced in any other region of the world are not Champagne.
The Champagne AOC regulation rules are strict and control everything in the making of a Champagne bottle: the grapes that can be used, pruning style, permitted yield, alcohol level, fermentation, maturation period, & more.
Why is Champagne more expensive than other sparkling wines?
Aside from the strict regulations and quality control we mentioned above, there are a few other factors: limited production, its prestige, the time-consuming vinification process, and of course the brand.
Champagne prices vary from about $1,200 pesos for a regular cuvée, to thousands for special cuvés and vintages.
Alternatives to Champagne
Crémant – the other French bubbly
If you love French wines, Crémants are a super fun niche to explore!
The French use the term Crémant to describe sparkling wines produced in other French regions (outside of Champagne), using the same vinification method from Champagne – known as the “traditional method” or “champenoise method.”
The labels always say Crémant and the region where the wine is produced, so you’ll see Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Loire, etc. They are produced with the typical grapes from the region, so a Crémant de Bourgogne will be produced with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the Loire version will use Chenin Blanc, and so on.
The Crémant AOCs also have strict AOC rules to guarantee the consistency and high quality of these wines.
Crémant price range: $600-$900 pesos for regular cuvés, and it can go up to thousands of pesos for special cuvées or vintages.
Franciacorta – the Italian high-end sparkling wines
Franciacorta is the Italian answer to Champagne. And it’s awesome!
This Italian wine is produced only in the region of Lombardy, Northern Italy, where it follows strict DOC and DOCG regulations. The grapes used are similar to Champagne: Chardonnay and Pinot Nero (Italian Pinot Noir). Different from Champagne, Franciacorta can also have a small proportion of Pinot Bianco.
Franciacorta producers also use the same labor-intensive and time-consuming “Champenoise Method” used in Champagne.
Franciacorta price range: $900 – $1200 for regular cuvées, it can go up to thousands for special cuvées and vintages
Raventós – The Spanish high-end sparkling wines
Pepe Raventós is a producer from Spain, but his wines are so unique that they get their own category. And that’s not us saying – the Spanish Wine Council created a new denomination called Conca del Riu Anoia D.O in Pénedes in 2012 to accommodate these wines, and so far Pepe Raventós is the only producer in that denomination!
The Raventós winery dates back to 1497, but Pepe started working with his father in the late ’90s. He worked in Europe gathering experience doing vintages with Hubert Lamy in Burgundy, Gaston Chiquet in Champagne, and with the icon of the Loire, Didier Dagueneau.
Once back in Spain, Pepe joined his parents to revitalize the winery and create a small state-of-the-art, beautiful sparkling winery, to produce the highest-end sparkling wine possible. In Pepe’s own words:
“we have to learn from Champagne what they have done well, but be totally different. We have 150 years of history making sparkling wine, we have indigenous grapes and we have the best climate for viticulture.”
Raventós produces biodynamic wines using native grapes from Penedès (Sumoll, Xarel-ló, Parellada). The wines undergo long maturation (18+ months) and are some of the most mineral and precise sparkling wines out there.
Raventós price range: MXP $800-$1000 for regular cuvées, thousands for special cuvées and vintages
Non-denomination sparkling wines
Non-denomination wines are the ones produced outside of denominations and/or appellations, whether because their region doesn’t have one (which is the case with all Mexican wines), or because the winemaker decided to produce wines without following any denomination rules.
There is no easy way to pick a wine from this category – you have to know the producer’s reputation, or trust your wine shop staff to point you in the right direction.
Check out here some sure-bet sparkling wine options.
Even more affordable sparkling wine options
We have covered some options that offer the same luxurious and prestigious level of Champagne. But what if you’re looking for a more affordable, day-to-day bubbly?
In that case, here’s what you should look for:
Pét-Nat Sparkling Wines
These are sparkling, but their style is very different from Champagne.
If Champagne is a brand new Mercedes, Pét-nats would be a retro jeep. If you’re in the mood for adventure, Pét-Nat should be your next pick.
Pét-Nat wines are off-looking: the wine is cloudy, and fizzy, usually comes in unusual colors, it has sediments at the bottom of the bottle, and it’s closed with a beer cap.
The term Pet-Nat (short for the French term Pétillant Naturel) refers to wines produced in the méthode ancestrale, an ancient and natural way of making sparkling wines, predating the méthode champenoise used in Champagne.
All sorts of old-world traditions are employed to create them, but the gist of it is that these wines are bottled before primary fermentation and are finished without the addition of secondary yeasts or sugars. The end product is simpler and more rustic wine than traditional sparkling wines, but also exciting and unpredictable.
Opening each bottle is a surprise, suggestive of the time and location where it was bottled.
Pét-nat wines price range: $500-$900 pesos
Prosecco is the light, citrusy and festive sparkling wine from Italy.
A Prosecco wine must be produced under the Prosecco DOC and DOCG denominations, which covers areas in Veneto and Friuli-Venezia. The grape used in Prosecco is called Glera, and the wine is produced using the Charmat method (a quicker and more affordable vinification process).
Prosecco is usually a straightforward and simpler wine, but it can offer very high quality.
Prosecco price range: $300 – $500 pesos
Tip to make sure you get a good Prosecco: always (and we mean ALWAYS) avoid the mass-produced bottles, and look for a Prosecco di Valdobbiadene or Prosecco di Conegliano (this should be on the front label) – these are the two small villages in Italy producing the most high-quality and delicious Prosecco you can find.