In the ongoing search for the best Champagnes and sparkling wines under the $20 mark, there is good news and bad news. Unless you are shooting for a small 187 ml, single serve bottle of Champagne, finding a true blue Champagne under $20 can be tough to do. For starters, Champagne is only Champagne if the grapes are grown and bottled in Champagne, France and that is never cheap. However, if you just want a sip of the real deal, you can snag small 187 ml bottles in the under $20 price range. Look for some of the bigger Champagne houses like Nicolas Feuillatte or Perrier Jouet in the small serving size bottles. However if you are going for full bottles of French bubbly, take heart. France dazzles with regionally-inspired sparkling wines, known as Crémants (for “creamy”) produced in regions outside of Champagne’s strict regional borders and made in the same traditional method as Champagne. Crémant d’Alsace is a sparkling wine with roots in Alsace or Crémant de Bourgogne represents a snazzy sparkler from Burgundy.
On to more good news, delicious sparkling wine at unbelievable price points is available from all over the wine world. One of the very best budget values in sparkling wines comes from Spain’s northeast Penedes region, carrying the label codename of Cava. Cava wows with fantastic pricing, delicious bubbles and extremely food-friendly leanings. America’s sparkling wine scene brings some serious diversity and palate appeal to the festive flavors and bubble-driven traditions of California, Washington, Oregon and New York. Prosecco, Italy’s fun budget-friendly bubbly, continues to welcome consumers to the wide world of sparkling wine with easy-going style and solid distribution.
Spain has got it going on when it comes to budget-friendly bubbly and the Segura Viudas Brut Cava does its best to give buyers the most bang for the buck. This is a rich textured, creamy sparkling wine running initial floral aromas alongside toasted almond, green apple and d’Anjou pear-driven components that debut again on the palate amid the clean, crisp lines of distinct acidity and a fresh finish.
An engaging blend of white wine grapes (Chenin Blanc dominates) from the Loire Valley, this Charles de Fere Cuvee communicates clear fruit aromas on the nose with green apple, ripe peach and a smidge of candied pear. The palate expression is dry, crisp and balanced with citrus notes lingering well into the finish.
Lucien Albrecht Cremant Brut Rose (France) $20 A top producer of “non-Champagne” sparkling wine, Lucien Albrecht is known for producing stellar Alsatian Cremants at equally appealing price points. This wine is no exception. Made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, expect plenty of strawberry swirls to pop on the nose followed by intriguing mineral-driven notes, the palate profile shows a lively marriage of citrus and raspberry components, richly textured with a well-woven finish.
La Marca Prosecco (Italy) $13 Prosecco, Italy’s sparkling white wine delight from Veneto, is a fun and festive burst of bubbles that carries an equally attractive price tag. La Marca’s Prosecco lives up to the lively expectations with full throttle bubbles, bright citrus aromas wrapped in a swirl of honey, and the fresh fruit profiles of sweet apple and tangy grapefruit on the dry, crisp palate. The finish maintains a charming minerality, with remnants of citrus in the mix.
Toad Hollow Risque (France) $15 This is a low alcohol (only 6%), light-hearted sparkler made from the Mauzac Blanc grape, a regional varietal found in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southwest France. Easy-going apple-driven fruit highlights the nose and echoes again on the refreshing, zippy palate. Truly a unique sparkling wine experience, Toad Hollow Risque is always a crowd-pleaser thanks to its lighter style, fresh flavor and touch of sweet on the finish.
Roederer Estate Brut (California) $20 The name “Roederer” may ring a wine bell. It’s the name of one of the most successful Champagne Houses in France, Champagne Louis Roederer. They crossed the pond and began making sparkling wine in California in 1988. Since then, Roederer Estate has become one of California’s most well-reputed sparkling wine producers in the country. The Estate Brut illustrates why. All 600 acres of vineyards are family-owned and each Brut is a blend of multiple vintages, including the elegant addition of oak-aged reserve wines. Expect a 60/40 split of Chardonnay to Pinot Noir in the cuvee with characteristic focus, toasted, nutty aromas, baked apple nuances, solid acidity and a remarkable richness that carries the finish. This Brut is a go-to gig for those looking for Champagne-style on a slightly better than beer budget.
Mumm Napa Brut Prestige (California) $17 – Keeping with California’s top sparkling wine themes, Mumm Napa’s Brut Prestige rolls with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as its base grapes. Granny smith apple, toasted notes of fresh baked bread and a hint of spice form the delicate aromatic on this sparkling wine. Dry with a medium-body and well-handled acidity, the fruit components rely largely on citrus-leaning flavors with a touch of melon and fresh ginger-like spice.
Gruet Blanc de Noirs (New Mexico) $15 Guaranteed to get the wine conversation rolling, when you share this wine with friends, they fall in love, and then you tell them it’s from New Mexico, south of Albuquerque. This particular sparkling wine gem is produced by French expats, a brother and sister team from Champagne. In the mid-1980s they moved to New Mexico to plant an “experimental” vineyard with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the main grapes of Champagne. The arid climate keeps rot at bay, while simultaneously eliminating the need for pesticides, and the dramatic temperature swings between hot days and cool nights slows the grapes ripening down and adds to the bright acidity found in Gruet wines.
Made in the same traditional method of Champagne (with the second fermentation taking place in the bottle to produce the prestigious bubbles), this smoked salmon colored sparkler dazzles with lively raspberry aromas, apple pie undertones, rich creamy textures and fresh acidity. A delight from start to finish.
*Quick Tip: Gruet (the “t” is silent, making the pronunciation Groo-ay)
Freixenet Sparkling Cordon Negro Brut Cava (Spain) $9 Cava, Spain’s sparkling wine, is made in the same method as Champagne (meaning the second fermentation takes place in the bottle not in a tank). Representing one of the wine world’s best deals, Cava is typically built on three indigenous grapes: Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada. Expect some serious fresh factors to kick in here, with apple-themed aromas, a slice of orange and a bit of spice all bolstered by vibrant acidity and solid bubble beading.
Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Rosé Cava (Spain) $9 Based on Pinot Noir and the local red grape, Trepat, it may be no surprise that ripe, red fruit dominates both the nose and the palate. Expect raspberry and strawberry components to sneak in and steal the aromatic show, followed by dried ginger spice and toasted vanilla notes. This is budget bubbly at its best!
Urge to Splurge? Check out Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label (France) $45
This is a popular, go-to wine for those looking to buy well-made, true blue non-vintage Champagne at a relatively reasonable price point, in the under $50 category. Built on the back of 50% Pinot Noir, close to 30% Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier taking 20% of the blend, you can expect a delicate balance of fruit and structure. Lively apple-driven fruit is bolstered by the yeast-filled aromas of fresh baked bread. The palate profile is rich and creamy with bright glints of mouth-watering acidity and a consistent fresh-factor that charms from first sip to full finish. Not ready to part with a full $45? Then check out half-bottle options that can run closer to $25.