Are you searching for the best Champagne alternatives?
Whether it’s New Year’s Eve, a birthday, an anniversary, or just because, nothing says celebration quite like a glass of Champagne. But let’s be real, the price tag on a bottle of this French sparkling wine can often pop the festive bubble.
If you’re after the sparkle without the splurge or want to explore similar styles of bubbly beyond Champagne, there’s a whole world of options.
As a sparkling wine lover and WSET-certified wine expert, I’ve put together a list of my favorite finds for you. These alternatives to Champagne deliver on taste but won’t drain your bank account.
Cheers to smart sipping!
What Makes a Good Champagne Alternative
This iconic sparkling wine can only be made in the Champagne region of France. But many wine regions throughout the world can produce similar styles of bubbly. You just have to know what to look for.
Champagne Production Method
The secret behind Champagne’s effervescence is the special production method. This is known as the méthode champenoise or the traditional Champagne method.
First, a base wine is created from a blend of grape varieties, typically Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Then, the wine goes through a second fermentation right in the bottle. This gives it the delightful fizz.
And the yeast sediment (aka lees) adds those notes of bread, biscuit, and toast. The more time this sediment is in the bottle, the more of those flavors you’ll get.
Once removed (called disgorgement), it’s topped off with the dosage. This mixture of wine and sugar gives the bubbly the desired level of sweetness. Then it’s sealed with a cork, ready to pop!
Learn more about how Champagne is made and the different sparkling wine sweetness levels.
Characteristics of Good Champagne Alternatives
When choosing the best Champagne alternative, there are a few things to consider:
- Grape Varieties: Look for sparkling wines that use the same grapes as Champagne. Chardonnay in particular takes on those characteristic bready notes and lends acidity. Pinot Noir brings body. And Pinot Meunier adds fruity flavors. Regions that use other grapes will give you different aromas and flavors.
- Regional Differences: Where the grapes are grown shapes the wine’s character. Sparkling wines from cooler climes will give you more of that crisp acidity and freshness found in French Champagnes.
- Production Method: How your bubbly is made matters. Stick with the traditional method for the closest flavors and those refined bubbles. And longer aging will give you more of the delicious nutty, toasty notes you find in Champagne.
- Name Recognition: You pay a premium for Champagne and big-name brands like Dom Perignon and Veuve Clicquot. So, seek out lesser-known regions and producers for the best value bubbles.
Now, let’s dive in and explore the best sparkling wines similar to Champagne.
The Best Champagne Alternatives
Region: Wine regions throughout France
Price: $15 to $50
Crémant is one of the best options for bubbly lovers looking for a Champagne experience at a more wallet-friendly price.
This group of sparkling wines is produced in many wine regions of France. And it offers similar quality and flavors but at a more approachable price.
As with Champagne, manual harvesting and whole-bunch pressing are required. And Crémant wines use the same traditional method where a secondary fermentation process happens in the bottle.
The lees aging requirement is less at 9 months compared to Champers 12. But you can still get that Champagne taste by looking for ones labeled Eminent and Grand Eminent. These up the aging to 24 and 36 months respectively.
Crémant Regions Most Similar to Champagne
Crémant is usually made from the same grape varieties that are used for the region’s still wines. Here are the ones that will be most like Champagne:
- Crémant de Bourgogne: Just south of Champagne, you’ll find Burgundy’s bubbly. It enjoys a similar climate and soil but makes slightly riper fruit. Like Champagne, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir take the lead, as they do with Burgundy’s still wines.
- Crémant de Limoux: This Languedoc appellation is found in the cooler, elevated areas near the Pyrenees mountains in Southern France. Limoux may hold the title for the first traditional method sparkling wine. The wines are primarily made from Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, with Pinot Noir and the local Mauzac grape sometimes used in the blend.
- Crémant du Jura: East of Burgundy, this region’s sparkling wines are at least 50% Chardonnay. It’s also a source of sparkling rosé wines from Pinot Noir, often blended with regional grapes like Poulsard.
Other French wine regions add their own spin to Crémant. Some of the most common are Crémant de Alsace, Crémant de Bordeaux, and Crémant de Loire. They might not be using the classic Champagne grapes, but they’re still making top-notch traditional method bubbly at a friendlier price tag.
Region: Lombardy, Italy
Price: $20 to $60
Franciacorta, Italy’s answer to Champagne, tends to fly under the radar outside its home country. But it’s worth the hunt to find this sparkling treasure.
Grown in Northern Italy’s Lombardy region, the grapes get a little extra ripeness from the warmer climate.
But the varieties will be familiar to Champagne lovers. Mainly Chardonnay and Pinot Nero (aka Pinot Noir). And there’s sometimes a splash of Pinot Bianco (or Pinot Blanc) in the blend. Plus, producers are experimenting with the local variety Erbamat for added acidity.
Thanks to the traditional method and a minimum of 18 months aging on the lees, this Italian sparkling wine has those familiar bready notes. Along with citrus, stone fruit, and nutty flavors.
This all makes it a fantastic alternative to Champagne, usually at an easier price point.
English Sparkling Wine
Region: Sussex, Kent, and Surrey, England
Price: $30 to $50
Sparkling wine from England? Yes, you read that right! Believe it or not, England is crafting bubbly that stands toe-to-toe with Champagne’s best.
Vines were brought to England by the Romans many centuries ago. But wars and phylloxera wiped them out. Not to mention, the cooler climate wasn’t always so grape-friendly.
But thanks to a warmer climate and a rise in vineyard plantings since the 70s, there’s been a wine revival. And with Southern England sporting the same chalky limestone soils found in the region of Champagne, this area has huge potential.
Most English sparkling wines are made in the traditional method with classic grape varieties. Although they’re not boxed in by Champagne’s strict regulations. So, there’s freedom to experiment. And use other grape varieties like Bacchus, a hybrid white developed in Germany.
Today, top producers are snagging prestigious awards at international competitions. And it’s putting English sparklers on the map.
And with French Champagne houses like Taittinger and Pommery investing in English vines, you know Britain’s bubbly lives up to the buzz.
Region: Penedès, Spain
Price: $10 to $50
Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine. Like Champagne, it’s always made using the traditional method with secondary fermentation in the bottle.
But what sets it apart is the use of indigenous grapes like Macabeo, Xarel·lo, and Parellada. Plus, the warmer Penedès region results in fruitier flavors and slightly less acidity.
With a shorter aging requirement of just 9 months, some inexpensive ones don’t hold up to Champers. But you can find Reserva and Gran Reserva versions with richer flavors from longer aging. And the newer Paraje Calificado labeling term will get you some of the best Cava at a minimum of 36 months aging.
I also recommend checking out Corpinnat, a group of producers that broke off from the Cava D.O. With stricter guidelines including organic farming, hand harvesting, and longer aging, these bubbles are complex and delicious!
American Sparkling Wine
Region: Coastal California, Oregon, New York, and other cool-climate regions in the United States
Price: $15 to $50
Stateside, you’ll find many sparklers modeled after Champagne. The go-to grapes of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir do well in cooler climes. Giving them just the right amount of zingy acidity for top-notch sparkling wine.
Look for bottles from California’s North Coast regions like Los Carneros and Anderson Valley. And Oregon’s Willamette Valley. But don’t just limit yourself to the West Coast.
And when Champagne’s own, like Taittinger and Roederer, are investing in these soils, you know it’s more than just a fling.
Without the strict rules of the Champagne region, they can push the boundaries of bubbly. Trailblazers are experimenting with everything from different grape varieties to fermentation techniques like the solera system. Yes, the same one used for sherry! But here giving sparkling wine a New World twist.
Pin for Later!
Australian Sparkling Wine
Region: Tasmania, Yarra Valley, Geelong, and Adelaide Hills, Australia
Price: $15 to $50
Down Under, the sparkling wine scene is as diverse as the landscape itself, ranging from funky Pet Nats to the uniquely Aussie sparkling red Shiraz.
But the classic Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have found a happy home in South Eastern Australia’s cooler regions.
Many producers are taking a page out of the traditional Champagne playbook. And from non-vintage and vintage wine to rosé, blanc de blancs, and blanc de noirs, they include many of the same styles. You’ll find these in mainland regions like Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills, and Geelong.
Then there’s Tasmania, a rising star in the world of bubbles. This island is putting out sparklers that have the elegance and complexity to throw down with the best from France.
Whether it’s the fresh and fruity numbers or the more mature, toastier types, these hard-to-find bottles are worth seeking out.
Region: Stellenbosch, Roberston, Elgin, and Hemel-en-Arde, South Africa
Price: $15 to $30
Méthode Cap Classique (or MCC for short) is South Africa’s name for traditional method sparklers.
Stellenbosch winemaker Frans Malan of Simonsig Estate was inspired by a visit to France’s Champagne region in 1968. And in 1973, he popped the cork on South Africa’s first Cap Classique, dubbed Kaapse Vonkel or “Cape Sparkle.”
Today, there are 250 producers across the Cape Winelands producing Cap Classique. Initially made from Chenin Blanc, most now use the classic Champagne varieties: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Plus, Pinot Meunier sometimes joins the blend.
The warmer South African climate gives these wines less acidity than their French counterparts. But top producers take advantage of high-altitude vineyards and cool coastal breezes to keep things crisp.
Look for these from regions like Robertson, Stellenbosch, Elgin, and Hemel-en-Aarde.
Region: Baden, Pfalz, Mosel, and other wine regions in Germany
Price: $20 to $50
Did you know Germans drink the most bubbly per capita in the world?1 And the majority of that is Sekt.
This German sparkling wine is often produced like Prosecco using the tank method. That’s where the secondary fermentation happens in a pressurized vat rather than the bottle. So, you won’t get as much of the nutty, toasty notes. And the grapes may not even come from Germany.
But for a sip closer to Champagne’s complexity, look for Deutscher Sekt bA. These must be made with German-grown grapes from one of the country’s quality wine-growing regions.
You’ll find Riesling, Silvaner, and other local varieties. But Pinot Noir (known here as Spätburgunder) and Chardonnay are in the line-up too.
Keep an eye out for “Klassische Flaschengärung” on the label, meaning it was made with the traditional method. You can also check out the producer’s website for the nitty-gritty of grape varieties, production process, and aging.
And for top-tier Sekt, seek out Winzersekt. These are the single-vineyard, single-grape, single-vintage VIPs of the Sekt world, always made in the traditional method.
Whether you’re toasting to love, celebrating a milestone, or just mixing a little everyday luxury into your life, these alternative sparkling wines offer all the joy of Champagne. And they remind us that great bubbly doesn’t have to come with a big price tag. Cheers to finding your new favorite sparkle!
Looking for more sparkling wine options? Check out Prosecco and Moscato d’Asti.
What’s your go-to Champagne alternative?