When it comes to wedding day wine picks, many couples are scouting for good (cheap) bubbles to raise their glasses in the traditional toast. There’s no doubt that Champagne is often the first stop on the wedding wine train, but for savvy, budget-bound folks, there are plenty of solid sparkling wine options that cost significantly less than classic French Champagne. Enter, Crémant, Cava, and domestic sparkling wines.
Crémant: Beyond Champagne, Best Bets for Well-priced French Bubbly
Crémant wines are regionally-inspired French sparkling wines made (way) outside of the strict delineated boundaries of Champagne. Crafted in the same traditional, time-consuming method as Champagne (dubbed “méthode champenoise“), with both bottle fermentation and lees-aging, these sparkling wines may stray well beyond the conventional grapes used to make Champagne (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier). Crémants offer a lively glimpse of a particular growing region’s given grapes all wrapped up in a sparkling, celebratory twist. For couples interested in toasting their vows with a classy crémant, bottle labels offer key clues as to which region a wine represents. Take Alsace for example, carrying front label terms like “Crémant d’Alsace,” essentially communicating that this particular bubbly hails from the tasty growing region of Alsace, in northeast France, and may very well carry Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, or even regional Riesling within. The same is true for bubbles from Burgundy (“Bourgogne” in French and on the label), which will spotlight “Cremant de Bourgogne” front and center, or lively Chenin Blanc ambassadors from the Loire Valley, dubbed “Cremant d’Loire.”
Cava: Spain’s Snazzy Sparkling Wine
Shining bright as Spain’s signature sparkling wine, Cava courts many couples with well-priced, fresh-faced, food-friendly bubbly that is made in the same traditional method as Champagne, where the second, bubble-capturing fermentation takes place in the bottle (not a tank). Built on the back of three local, Spanish white wine grapes: Macabeo, Xarel-lo, and Parellada, Cava hails predominately from the Penedès region of northeast Spain (just west of Barcelona), and accounts for a significant 10% of Spain’s total wine production. Cava’s consistent claim to sparkling wine fame lies in its outstanding quality to price ratio. Couples looking to cash in on Cava savings will find remarkable bottles readily available for well under $20 (and often under $10).
American Sparkling Wines: Bringing Serious Bubbles to the New World
While many couples say they want Champagne to toast their nuptials, most mean they want festive (persistent) bubbles rocking the flute, but don’t necessarily want to pay premium prices. Keep in mind, Champagne is only Champagne if it’s made within the strict geographical boundaries of Champagne, France. Champagne is a place. It lies about an hour and a half east of Paris. Every other bottle of bubbly made outside of this small growing region is categorically considered sparkling wine. At its cheapest, Champagne still commands right around $40 a bottle. The good news is that many of the top Champagne houses have extended their inspiration and influence to vineyards around the globe to make some serious sparkling wine from regional grapes, at considerably lower price points.
Today, most wine regions offer at least one rendition of sparkling wine. However, the U.S. has taken its sparkling wine endeavors to new heights, with many domestic producers finding their funding and future in Old World Champagne houses. For example, as the name implies California’s Domaine Chandon shares its heritage and sassy style with French Champagne idol Moët & Chandon. Or take Mumm Napa, whose prestigious roots trace back to parent company G.H. Mumm, the largest producer of Champagne in the Reims region, and today Mumm Napa leads Napa’s sparkling wine initiatives with innovative style and ongoing accolades. Last, but certainly not least, take Louis Roederer, premium producer of the highly exalted Cristal Champagne, quietly and audaciously esteemed by royalty and rappers alike, which has significant investment in the cool climate of Mendocino’s Anderson Valley for all estate grown grapes that make their way into Roederer Estate’s renowned sparkling wine renditions. While California bubbly often bares more forward fruit character than its classic, counterpart, the method and tradition remain very much the same as Champagne.