Which alternative champagne will work best for you?

First of a two-part series on sparkling wines

Chances are – especially because you're reading this – you will enjoy a glass or two of sparkling wine. Bubbly, outside of a wedding, a birthday celebration or some other special occasion.

The vast majority of champagne and other sparkling wines United States are purchased and consumed in December. We associate champagne with celebration and luxury with the Belle Epoque era of Parisian excess in the late 19th century. Kick the.

Of course, champagne is the cream of the crop when it comes to sparkling wine. It is expensive; we tend to call any wine with bubbles "champagne," because that reinforces the idea of ​​indulgence and excess – which, in turn, offends our collective American fear that enjoying the present and now will deprive us of pleasure or virtue in the hereafter.

When we stop equating bubbles with champagne, and therefore luxury and extravagance, we open up to the world of possibilities. (And believe me, champagne producers would be a lot of us drink as "champagne.") A bottle of Spanish cava, Italian prosecco or California fizz costs $ 10 to $ 20, so celebrations can any day. What better way to greet friends who like pizza night, book club and mah-jongg than with a festive glass of bubbly?

The vast array of sparkling wines.

The main reason champagne is the ne plus ultra of bubbly is the way it is made, with a second fermentation occurring in the bottle to give the wine its sparkle. This method is used around the world, and is known as "champagne method," "traditional method" or "methode traditionnelle." Other wines are artificially carbonated in the tank following the alcoholic fermentation. Italy's prosecco is the most successful of this style. Really cheap American fizz seems to inject more headaches into the wine than bubbles.

Then there are other styles of sparkling wine. Crémant wines are made in France, but outside of the Champagne region, using the traditional method. Chenin blanc in the Loire; they are typically made with regional grapes; riesling or pinot blanc in Alsace; chardonnay in Burgundy. My favorites are Crémant de Bourgogne (Burgundy), which is usually 100 percent chardonnay and most closely resembles fine champagne, and Crémant de Limoux, from southwestern France, which offers great value for the price.

Cava is spain's claim to bubbly hunger and is arguably the best value in fizz. You can get decent quarry for under $ 10 (Jaume Serra Cristalino and Segura Viudas are top-value brands), and cavas closer to $ 20 can successfully imitate champagnes that cost twice as much.

Italy offers franciacorta, champagne-method wine that is fairly hard to find in champagne. Italy's best bargain, though, is prosecco. It's a gentle fizz from the Veneto region around Venice made in the tank-fermented method. Many proseccos are all about the bubbles, but the bright ones show bright red-fruit flavors. Introduction to any meal.

I know how to buy and enjoy your sparkling wines to celebrate this holiday season, to mark your achievements and to honor those who have left us, try to register and remember those flavors for celebrations over the next year. After all, every day can be special.

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