The Best Sparkling Wines to Sip Now
Some of the world’s great sparklers come from just beyond the sources we know best
Champagne is the Kleenex of sparkling wine. No matter the brand of tissue tucked into our purses, it’s just Kleenex to many of us. And no matter the provenance of the bubbles in our glass, it’s Champagne—even to many who know that legally, you can’t call sparkling wine Champagne unless it actually is from that legendary region in France. As far as the tissue goes, it’s unclear to me how the one producer came to represent an entire industry. But in the case of Champagne, the canonization is deserved–even if the Champenois abhor the cavalier use of their name: The painstaking and expensive process that produces the best sparklers the world over came to be in Champagne. In broad strokes, the still wine is fermented a second time under pressure in the bottle and allowed to rest there “on the lees,” or sediment, for many months or years, to create beautiful little bubbles and complex flavors.
The good news is that Champagne doesn’t have a lock on fine bubbles. Great regions around the world are producing lovely sparklers, crafted in the same traditional method (as opposed to being fermented in large pressurized tanks to trap the carbon dioxide or, worse, having CO2 pumped into them à la Coca-Cola). And sans Champagne’s reputation, many of these wines offer a refreshing value-to-price ratio. In time for Valentine’s Day, here are three of our favorite lesser-known sources.
France beyond Champagne
The famous appellation might end at the borders of Champagne, but the country’s skill with bubbles doesn’t. Seven French regions other than Champagne produce sparkling wine in the traditional method. The term for these sparklers is Crémant, followed by the name of the place—so, Crémant de Loire or Crémant de Bourgogne. In each region, the grape varieties used are those allowed in their still wines, for variations on the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier of Champagne. And did I mention the price break on offer without the gold-standard moniker?