When news hit that poor harvest yields in France's Champagne region would lead to a potentially massive worldwide shortage, we were more than a little freaked out. What would we do without our bubbles?
The truth is, the (#firstworldproblems) situation is not nearly as dire as we think it is. While, yes, the “Champagne Method," also known as méthode Champenoise or méthode traditionnelle,is world recognized as the best approach to making high-quality sparkling wines, there are lots of places to find it as well as delicious variants.
"When searching for high-quality sparkling wine outside of Champagne, one can look both in France and around the world for other sparkling wines made from the same méthode traditionnelle," says Whole Foods Market’s global beverage buyer and master sommelier Devon Broglie.
Planning a sparkling-wine centric vacation? There's many places you can get your fix, no matter how severe that Champagne shortage ends up being!
Italy is a great spot with Spumante from Asti, Franciacorta from Lombardy, and Prosecco from Veneto. "Veneto also has an undiscovered sparkling called Durello from the grape variety Durella and Soave Sparkling. I tasted a number of them, each being fantastic and the price inexpensive," says Hugh Preece, operating partner at Salt Creek Grille.
But perhaps the top of the options is the Lombardia region in Northern Italy. This is the top non-Champagne bubbles pick, for their Franciacorta, says Jessica Norris, the recently announced director of wine education for Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group. "Franciacorta is made exactly like the bubbles from Champagne, and from similar grapes (Pinot Nero, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco). Ca del Bosco is one of the region's flagship producers and their Cuvee Prestige is affordable and super yummy. If you want to go for the gusto, their tete-de-cuvee Anna Maria Clementi plays in the same sandbox with the big boys of Champagne (Dom, Grande Dame, Cristal)," she says.
Cava wins a medal for producing consistent, enjoyable méthode traditionnelle sparkling wines at such an affordable price point. "While typically the wines are not as complex as even Cremant from France, they can’t be beaten for the price-quality ratio. Many great Cavas exist for under $15 and the more expensive wines up to $25 or $30 still deliver excellent value at those price points," says Broglie. These wines are made of traditional Catalan varieties Xarel-lo, Macabeo, and Parellada with a pinch of Chardonnay thrown in from time to time, or Pinot Noir or Monastrell for rosés. "The wines have a slightly more coarse texture than you may find in the creamy versions of Italy or France but they possess loads of depth, character, and structure, and can run from lean and crisp with tart apple and citrus to weighty and dense with ripe round fruit and nutty, toasty complexity. Some of our favorites include Roger d'Anoia Cava Brut, Segura Viudas, and Mercat Brut, and Rosé," says Broglie.
The Tasmanian sparkling wine in Australia is absolutely worth the visit. "Not punch lines but crisp, generously flavorful sparklers from Oz’s cool-climate island. Not many get to these shores, but [it's definitely] worth the effort," says wine personality and author Mark Oldman, a two-time winner of the Georges Duboeuf Best Wine Book of the Year Award, and author of How To Drink Like A Billionaire.
"[The U.S. is] one of the only countries that still thumbs its nose at the Champagne region by legally allowing some wineries to label their wines as 'California Champagne' (shame on you Korbel!)," says Broglie. But many French Champagne producers actually do have interests in American sparkling wine producers and are making delicious new world examples of méthode traditionnelle sparkling wines. "Among them are Roederer with Roederer Estate, Taittinger with Domaine Carneros, and Mumm with Mumm Napa. Additionally, an unassuming little property in northern New Mexico makes some of the country’s best traditional method sparkling wines for the price with a product called Gruet. They incidentally also make one of our favorite American-appellated traditional method sparklers called Madame Liberté Brut," says Broglie. Other great areas of the U.S.A. to find sparkling wine include Oregon and the southern North Fork of Long Island.
5. South America
There are some terrific new sparkling wines being produced in Chile and Argentina. "I had an amazing Malbec Rose sparkling from Alta Vista Vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina. There are other varietals too that are coming from that region that in the past has produced Malbecs and Torronteswines. In Chile, the Central Valley vineyards are now producing some interesting Chardonnay Bruts…but the product is so new that the ratings are just OK," says Pam Walker, of Walker Adventures, Affiliate of Travel Experts.
Just because there are issues in Champagne doesn't mean France is off the map. The Alsace wine region of France makes a great alternative to champagne: Cremant. “I have poured Cremant de Alsace (the second most popular sparkling wine in France) by the glass at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House in New York for years. They all require nine months on the lees, gaining a bit of that Champagne-esque brioche/nuttiness but because of the different varietals used can vary in texture, flavor, and richness," says Norris.
7. South Africa
Affiliate of Travel Experts,Travel Repertoire's R. D. Gavel says, "I would recommend South Africa and, specifically, the Stellenbosch region. There are numerous vineyards, some very small with limited production, that offer a variety of sparkling options including the well-regarded Méthode Cap Classique wines. Some hotels provide complimentary transportation to and from Stellenbosch. A car and driver can be arranged for a planned itinerary of winery visits, tastings, and food and wine pairings. And, while other destinations may offer wonderful wine, great dining, and excellent hotels, where else can you also include spectacular scenery, an African safari, a luxury rail experience, a river cruise, penguin encounters, shark diving, and ostrich riding!"
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