When we talk about bubbles and wine, the conversation inevitably always begins with Champagne, heralded by many as the king of sparkling wine. Of course, I’m talking about the real deal, which can only come from the Champagne region in France. It’s renowned for good reasons—Champagne is elegant and remarkably versatile, sure to pair with any occasion, and expressive of world-famous terroir—but a big price tag often comes with such prestige.
Fortunately, the category of affordable sparkling wine is almost as big as the world of sparkling wine itself. Every wine-producing region on earth makes sparkling wine, so finding both quality and value in bubbly wines doesn’t take much effort.
You don’t even have to leave Champagne’s native country to find interesting and good-valued bubbly. Beautiful sparklers are made throughout all of France, and are just as versatile on celebratory occasions like New Year’s Eve. These bottles will be marked with crémant on their labels, which indicates the wines were made using the traditional method, with a second fermentation that occurs in the bottle—the same way Champagne is made. My favorites include Crémant d’Alsace, Crémant de Loire, and Crémant de Bourgogne—all elegant options easily found in local wine shops.
Some of my go-to affordable bubbly outside of France includes cava from Spain, German sekt, and Italian prosseco—all entirely accessible and affordable. Sparklers from California and Oregon, and other areas of the world make great inexpensive options as well. Even wineries in off-the-beaten-path places like New Mexico and right here in New Jersey are making high-quality sparkling wine these days.
No matter what type of sparkling wine you opt for, be sure to serve them chilled, and always be aware of what direction you’re pointing the bottle when it comes time to open it. Yes, it is entirely possible to shoot out somebody’s eye or launch a cork into a light bulb. Especially if it isn’t the first bottle of the night.
I’ve found the easiest and most reliable method of opening a bottle of pressurized wine is to hold the cork in one hand and the bottom of the bottle in the other. Twist the bottle, not the cork, and it should open with ease and without any injuries. A bottle of sparkling wine should open with a whisper and not a bang, as the old adage goes.
Sparkling wines are all too often the hallmark beverage of celebrations. But you should be able to indulge in a glass of any of these kinds of affordable bubbly any day of the week, or if you prefer, everyday. Have a glass with pancakes or potato chips, while binge-watching your favorite Netflix show, or for really no reason at all.
Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée Champagne Brut, $40
An affordable option from Champagne, this elegant new cuvée from Laurent-Perrier is creamy on the nose, with juicy flavors of apple and lemon with a mineral-driven finish. A blend of 55% chardonnay, 25% pinot noir and 10% pinot meunier.
Clotilde Davenne Extra Brut Crémant de Bourgogne, $25
Delightful and ripe, with intense flavors of green apple, lime and brioche, and a crisp and complex finish. A steal for a quality French sparkler.
Valentin Zusslin Crémant d’Alsace Brut Zéro, $30
From a biodynamic producer, this bone-dry bubbly has notes of apricots and white flowers on the nose, with tangy acidity on the finish that makes it especially food-friendly. A blend of auxerrois, pinot gris, and chardonnay.
William Heritage Estate Reserve Vintage Brut 2014, $40
Outer Coastal Plain, New Jersey
Arguably the Garden State’s finest bottle of bubbly, this wine is a blend of 69% chardonnay and 31% pinot noir. Crisp and fresh, with baked apple pastry and almond aromas. (In September, it was awarded a 90-point score by The Wine Advocate, making it the first New Jersey wine to be awarded such a high score by the journal.)
Duck Pond Sparkling Blanc de Noir Brut 1996, $58
Willamette Valley, Oregon
An excellent vintage sparkling wine that has only gotten more elegant with age. Made with 100% pinot noir, this bubbly is savory and toasty, with notes of grass and ginger, and a pleasant creaminess on the finish.