All wine that sparkles is not Champagne, and not all wine that's in the glass at midnight on New Year's Eve must be Champagne. If you're in charge of supplying the bubbly for the midnight toast, know that there are other sparkling wine choices that will tickle your nose and may save you a little money too.
There's been quite a bit of buzz about this sparkling wine this year. It's official name is pétillant-naturel (pét-nat), meaning "naturally sparkling." While the style of sparkling wine may be new to many people, the method of making pét-nat is older than that of Champagne. In fact, it's a precursor to Champagne and all sparkling wines.
Champagne is created when yeast is added to a bottle filled with already fermented wine. The wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle, altering the wine's flavor and creating the bubbles. The bottle receives a temporary crown cap, and when the yeast is removed from the bottle after the second fermentation is finished, a permanent cork is put in the bottle.
Pét-nat differs in that wine that hasn't finished fermenting is added to a bottle with no additional sugar or yeast and is sealed with a crown cap, not a cork. As the wine finishes fermenting, it creates bubbles. Since the wine finishes its first fermentation in the bottle, it's never filtered. Pét-nat is cloudy, and each bottle can be a little different.
It's the oldest method of making sparkling wine, but once the more controlled method of creating Champagne became common, it went out of style. But it's back again and rising in popularity, according to Bloomberg. The site recommends five pét-nats from around the world, ranging from $20-$26 a bottle.
Probably the most well-known sparkling wine after Champagne, prosecco was the hottest sparkling wine in 2014, according to Wall Street Journal. Like Champagne, prosseco's bubbles happen during a second fermentation, but unlike Champagne they happen in a fermentation tank, not the bottle. Sweeter and less expensive than many Champagnes — it averages $12 a bottle — it's common to see prosecco as the sparkling wine-by-the-glass choice on many restaurant menus.
Proseccos like the La Marca (pictured above) are easy to find in almost any wine store. In fact, you may find more bottles of prosecco than Champagne in the sparkling wine section because of its popularity.
The Spanish sparkler cava is not as well-known as prosecco, but as more people discover this sparkling wine, it'll gain in popularity. Cava is made using the same method as Champagne, and often made with the same grapes, but it comes with a less expensive price tag. According to VinePair, it's one of the world's most popular sparkling wines.
At about $10 a bottle, the Segura Viudas Cava (pictured above) is a great wine to toast with and enjoy throughout a meal. And don't let that price tag fool you; Spanish wines often over-deliver on quality.
Sekt is the sparkling wine of choice in Germany and Austria. Made using the same method as prosecco, most of the sekt that is produced in those countries stays in within their borders, but some of it is distributed globally. Sekt is often sweeter and lower in alcohol than many Champagnes.
Look for sekt labeled b.A. or Winzersekt to make sure you're getting sekt made from one of Germany's 13 quality regions, according to the International Wine & Food Society.
If you want French sparkling wine but not the expense that comes with Champagne, look for crémant. The wine has less effervescence than Champagne, but it's still sparkling.
Half of the crémant made comes from the Alsace region in northwestern France, but seven regions can produce it. Crémant is just one of the 22 other sparkling wines that France produces, in addition to Champagne.
6. American sparkling wine
We produce a lot of excellent sparkling wine here in the United States, much of it made in the style of Champagne. Each year, Wine Spectator rates several of them and organizes them in a handy alphabetical listing of U.S. sparkling wines. It's not a comprehensive list, but it will give you an idea of what's available as well as show you that high price tag doesn't mean better quality, at least in their opinion. Several of the $100 or more expensive bottles are rated lower than many $40-ish bottles.
Many of the best known American sparkling wines come from California, like the Chandon from California pictured above. But, if local wine is what you want to toast with this New Year's Eve, chances are at least one of the wineries in your region makes a sparkling wine.