Bubbly Alternatives to Champagne
Looking for a less costly alternative to Champagne? Prosecco, the Italian sparkling wine, is a great option. It is light, usually sweet and fruity but not as complicated as Champagne. Prosecco is the main ingredient in several popular cocktails, including the Bellini, in which it is mixed with peach juice.
It typically retails for $10 to $20 a bottle. Production of prosecco has increased thirty-fold over the past four decades and there are plans for greater distribution particularly to emerging wine markets like China.
Prosecco is produced using the Charmat method, in which a second fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. Prosecco does not ferment in the bottle, unlike some varieties of champagne. Hence, it should not be stored for long periods of time, and should be consumed within two years after it is produced. Nearly two-thirds of all proseccos come from Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, the Veneto region which is near Venice.
Prosecco can be found in three forms: brut, extra dry, and dry. Brut typically comes from high-quality prosecco grapes. Brut prosecco contains less residual sugar; no more than 15 grams per litre. Extra Dry prosecco is actually less dry than Brut. It contains 12 to 20 grams per litre of residual sugar. Dry process contains the most residual sugar, typically 20 to 35 grams per litre.
While prosecco is widely believed to be a less expensive alternative, not all proseccos are created equal. Bottles that are labeled with "DOC" (Denominazione Origine Controllata) or "DOCG" (Denominazione Origine Controllata Garantita) is a guarantee of quality, meaning that the grape used and the wine making process originated in a specific region.
Other alternatives to Champagne include Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine, that comes in different degrees of sweetness, similar to prosecco. It can be distinguished by its cork, which is emblazoned with a four-pointed star. Like prosecco, cava is sold ready for consumption and does not improve after being stored.
Sparkling wines from the United States, also referred to as "New World Sparklers" include those made with both the méthode champenoise (second fermentation takes place in the bottle) and the Charmat method (second fermentation takes place in a large tank). Sparking wines not always a less costly alternative to Champagne, however, and some are pricey.