So what’s the deal?
Whether you opt for capital-C Champagne or a sparkling white from elsewhere in the world, bubbly need not be expensive. Don’t believe us? Here’s how to score a great-yet-affordable bottle. For the real deal, turn to French “grower Champagnes.” These small brands are made by people who grow their own grapes in addition to making the wine. Not only are they cheaper than most of the usual suspects, but they can be more interesting, too.
Growing grapes might seem like an integral part of making wine, but in the Champagne region, most wineries buy them from growers all over. By blending grapes from different areas and wines from different vintages, they’re able to produce a consistently good product in a challengingly cool, dreary climate.
Grower Champagnes are made by people who got tired of seeing their grapes blended into anonymity. The best of these are intriguing in similar ways to great artisanal cheese: they may not be as smooth and spotless as the industrially made examples, but their irregularities make them that much more interesting.
There’s another French sparkling option, too: Crémant. Made in the same way as Champagne but outside the region, you can often find bottles under $30. From elsewhere in Europe, you’ll find Cava—Spain’s answer to Champagne, made using the same methods but often with native grapes—and the ever-popular prosecco, boasting fruity, floral characteristics.
Cheeses to Pair
When it comes to cheeses that are super-rich—think of triple creams—there are few more hedonistic pairings than bubbles. The wine’s acidity and effervescence act like little scrub brushes, gently scraping the milkfat from your tongue, readying it for more. Saltier cheeses are the most challenging, as the acid in the wine accents the saline quality. Slightly sweeter sparkling wines will handle salt with more grace; think of a mild prosecco with parmesan or an off-dry Cava with a slice of Manchego.
- Franaoise Bedel Champagne Dis Vin Secret
- Champagne Cuvee Sainte-Anne Brut
- Thomas Jefferson Crémant de Limoux Brut
- Segura Cava Brut
- Adami Brut Prosecco