’Tis the season to be bubbly. December is the hottest month for sparkling wine. Festive, fun, special. People who don’t drink wine, drink sparkling as we endure the darkest days of winter and toast the dawn of a new year.
Champagne—bubbly from the Champagne region of northern France—is classic holiday libation. Fine and good and likely to cost you more than $50 a bottle. Champagne aggressively promotes its reputation as a luxury. Weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, end-of-year holidays: Champagne. Okay, good for French marketeers in Reims and Epernay.
There are alternatives for those of us who do not have a bushel of bills bulging in our wallets. Cava is the Spanish bubbly. Crémant is French sparkling not made in Champagne. These are made using the traditional Champagne method, but you can buy two, likely more, bottles of those and not dread your first 2022 credit card bill.
Then prosecco. The sparkling from northeastern Italy uses a different grape—glera—and a different method that involves fermentation in an autoclave, eschewing the in-bottle second fermentation and slicing the price to fractions of Champagne costs.
Prosecco sales are soaring. World-wide sales were 120 million bottles in 2009. In 2020, the number was more than 500 million. More than a 400 percent increase. The explosion is even more impressive because it far outstrips the slight increase in overall global wine consumption during the same 11 years.
Most prosecco offerings are DOC—Denominazione di Origine Controllata, or “designation of controlled origin.” That is the second-highest classification of Italian wines, and they will be the most affordable—$9-12. The highest classification is DOCG—Denominazione di Origine Controllate e Garantita—is a guarantee of highest quality. Still, they will cost only $13-22.
There are only a few places in the Veneto—the northeastern part of Italy—that qualify for DOCG designation. Look for “Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG” on the label if you want highest quality.
• Vilarnau Brut Reserva Cava, Barcelona NV: Crisp, vibrant, very fruity and flavorful with robust bubbles. $12-17 Link to my review
• Ca’ di Prata Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry DOCG: Creamy crowd pleaser. Light and fruit-forward. $13-15 Link to my review
• J. de Villebois Crémant de Loire Brut NV: Primarily chenin blanc–chardonnay; dash of cabernet franc gives it extra depth. $13-20 Link to my review
Last round: I’m on the wine diet: sparkling for breakfast, white for lunch, red for dinner. I’m losing two days per week.