A Primer on Champagne Alternatives

Few things cannot be determined by James Whitcomb Riley’s duck test. You know: “A bird that walks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck is probably a duck.” Actually, I can only think of two: The first is my sick ex-boyfriend who used to dress in a duck costume before bedtime. The second is champagne.

Just because the beverage in your champagne flute is champagne-coloured, fizzles like champagne, and makes you feel so very happy, it is not necessarily champagne.

Champagne can only be labeled as such if it comes from the northern French region by the same name. And since hyper-specialized delicacies tend to be pricey, you might want alternatives for your New Year’s soirée. Here, by region, a look at your options.

Prosecco, a dry sparkling wine from the Italy’s Veneto region is probably the most widespread champagne substitute; it appears often in bellinis.
Buy: Bottega Vino dei Poeti Prosecco, which tastes like a mouthful of orchard air on a clear, dry day. Fun, zingy, well-structured. $12

Cava is usually made from the Xarel-lo grape, which produces crisp wines that are clean, fruity and slightly creamy.
Buy: Segura Viudas, which is rich, complex and nicely yeasty. $14.50

California often makes wines in the méthode champenoise, using traditional French varietals: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.
Buy: Mumm Napa Brut Prestige is full, fruity and delicious. $28

If you want to blow your holiday windfall on the real thing, try a Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut – a dense, luscious champagne. $72

Prices and availability may vary nationwide.

Kathryn Borel Jr., who is pictured above, is the author of Corked, a book about wine, France, her father and death. You can follow her on twitter at @borelcorp. Corked is out in paperback now, available here.


2 thoughts on “A Primer on Champagne Alternatives”

  1. Wow. You completely skipped over the various Ontario champenoises. Surely there are some laughable ones – we all grew up on Baby Duck. But to seem oblivious to Trius (Hillebrand) or Pelham’s Cuvee Catharine… How am I supposed to take you seriously?

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