Alternatives to Champagne
19th January 2021
Let me first say that I am not hoping to tempt anyone away from Champagne and neither will I say that there is anything that compares exactly to it, but nonetheless, I hear many people interested to know more about the options outside of this famous fizzy wine from France.
Champagne is unique, it is produced solely within a designated area of France and hold thousands of labels to explore outside of the bottles that sit, forever tempting you, on supermarket shelves.
Many of us will be able to name at least a couple of famous Champagne producers from Bollinger to Moët & Chandon and I am sure that if I mention Veuve Cliquot, Dom Pérignon, Lanson, Louis Roederer, Mumm, Perrier Jouët then I will get you saying to yourself ‘yes, I have heard of those too‘.
If I asked you to name sparkling wine brands outside of Champagne? Puzzled expression on your face and struggling to suggest any no doubt?
If you are happy to explore away from the name Champagne then we have an amazing choice. Just like with Champagne, you can choose from the cheaper options right up to the costly, you have the vintage along with the young and fresh, famous names you have also with just as impressive histories and terroir.
You will for sure be familiar with Prosecco and Cava, two of the major ‘alternatives’ if it is sparkling wine you seek. We can add wines from across the world if we want to increase our options from New Zealand to Slovenia – sparkling wine is more popular than most people think.
Champagne sits at the top of the pile for many, dare I say justifiably so, but many sparkling wines rival both in style and in quality. Sparkling wines can also take us far away from the character of Champagne that we know with younger, fruity and easily produced styles such as Prosecco and holding far different grapes and allowing styles such as red sparklers from Le Marche in Italy. English sparkling wine is an increasing rival to Champagne made in a very similar way and many occasions with exactly the same grapes and, some may argue, terroir (climate and soil).
If I stick to how I read the title to this article, then I will take a look at the ‘similar’ sparkling wines to Champagne and thus those which are an alternative yet not removing the production, characters and style you may be already familiar with.
Champagne is made via the traditional method – Requiring more time and effort (expenses too) and importantly a double fermentation. This process enables the wine to take on many different styles and quality from acidic and citrus to sweeter yellow fruits and toasty in character. The process also allows for better ageing potential of the wine which again gives further expressions that many people seek from Champagne.
Champagne remains an aspirational product and contains many household names who monopolise the market thus you generally always see the same names for sale at major food and drink outlets to include bars and restaurants. Champagne is generally priced higher than any of its rival sparkling wines. But, there are alternatives…
What are the easier to find and explore alternatives to Champagne?
Here below are four competitor regions to Champagne and an example of a winery that you can contact directly and purchase bottles of bubbly from:
English Sparkling Wine
As I write this article I am in England so the most accessible alternative has to be this option. English sparkling wines are being produced both up and down the country with a greater concentration of producers located in the southern coastal regions. Many are multi award winning and varied Champagne and Sparkling Wine championships held annually place English fizz just as good as and sometimes, better than their French rivals.
Fox & Fox: English Sparkling Wine
Italy is the biggest producer of wine globally and within its wonderful variety of terroir we get some fantastic glasses of red, white, rosé and fizz. Famously the home of Prosecco (Charmat method so not in this article as a competitor to Champagne) and many fine spumante seen for sale at major outlets across the UK and cheaply available online.
For me, the northern region of Italy gives us the greatest selection of sparkling wines especially as we approach the border with Austria and thus having the influence of The Alps. Trentodoc region sits exactly in this prime region with great terroir and influence from The Alps. If I am honest, the Trentodoc region and some producers with amazing labels are giving us the opportunity to have the most similar sparkling wine to Champagne. From toasty to brioche, crisp acidity to fresh floral and fruity characters – Trentodoc is the closest alternative to Champagne.
Ferrari Trento: Trentodoc Sparkling Wine
Another Italian example and another located and influenced by the Northern Italian terroir with a great expansion of water that of Lake Iseo to give it a unique and placement in the world of sparkling wine.
Though a relatively small region and even tinier with regards to vines planted, 1,500 hectares, it holds some 200 winemakers producing a wide selection of traditional method sparkling wines in the superior DOCG classification (first sparkling wine region of Italy to be awarded this).
La Montina Franciacorta: Franciacorta Sparkling Wine
South African (Method Cap Classique – MCC)
South Africa holds many award winning sparkling wines and certainly, in my view, deservedly so. It has been known for the still wines it produces, though recently the MCC range has developed and gained global recognition. Currently, the annual production of Method Cap Classique is around 3 million bottles (compared to 400 million for the Champagne region).
Relatively young in years for a wine sparkling wine region, some 50 years, it produces mostly the popular Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for the fizz it produces. You can explore wonderful fruity and biscuit styles with MCC, one of its most famous producers being Graham Beck.
Graham Back: South African Sparkling Wine
Co-founder of Glass of Bubbly. Journalist and author focused on Champagne & Sparkling Wines and pairing them with foods.