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Whether you're shopping for bubbles for a special occasion or your New Year’s Eve toast, before you shell out $50 or more for that iconic orange label, it’s worth getting an in-depth look at what else is out there—especially if you’re hoping to expand your wine horizons or just find something at a more approachable price point. If you’re unfamiliar with the sparkling wine category, a good rule of thumb to remember is that Champagne is a sparkling wine that must come from its eponymous region in France (and adhere to a strict set of rules), which means that not all sparkling wines are Champagnes.
In fact, sparkling wine can be made all over the world, with many regions known for their own distinctive styles. Italy produces Prosecco, Méthode Cap Classique is made in South Africa, and Cava is what you'll find in Spain. And remember: just because these bottles don’t bear the word “Champagne” on their labels doesn’t mean they can’t be great. Here are our top sparkling wine picks of the year, each from a different pin on the map.
While Champagnes dominated the top 10 most-scanned list of sparkling wines on Vivino last year, there was one bottle from the U.S.: the 2016 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs Brut, a sparkling wine made from 100 percent chardonnay grapes in the same manner as Champagne (known as Méthode Champenoise or Traditional Method).
This wine is clean, crisp, and perfectly dry with notes of brioche, apple, honey, baking spices, and the tiniest bit of smoke. 2016 was an excellent harvest, so this particular bottle might be a challenge to find in a standard size, but you can always stock up on half or large-format bottles. Pro tip: If you sign up for one of the Schramsberg clubs, you’ll get preferential pricing when you buy directly from the winery.
Some bottle recommendations are best sought by asking the owner of an independent wine shop what they suggest. Karen Williams, who owns and operates ACME Fine Wines in Napa (which was voted one of Wine Enthusiast’s Best Wine Retailers of 2020), shares her personal crush in the bubbles realm.
“[KEUSH Vayots Dzor] weds high quality with a dreamy price point. Crafted using the Traditional Method, or Méthode Champenoise, from indigenous Armenian varietals (Khatoun Kharji and Voskehat) and grown on volcanic and limestone soils, the grapes are ripened at their high-elevation perch situated between 4,000-6,000 feet above sea level,” she shares. “We love the energetic personality that commingles with fresh melon and nutty tones beneath the bubbling, foamy mousse. At four grams per liter of residual sugar, we find perfect pairings for the Brut style are an assortment of house-cured meats and soft, aromatic cheeses; and for a traditional pairing, simple pasta topped with feta, yogurt, garlic, butter, and herbs.”
When it comes to the Usual Brut bottle, think sparkling wine meets beer—these single-serve Bruts come in beaker-shaped clear glass with a pop-off cap and are meant to be sipped straight from the bottle. Usual Wines’ refreshingly dry North Coast brut sparkling wine is the product of sustainable farming and sulfite-free winemaking, and they go down rather easily, whether on their own or mixed into a Bellini, Rossini, or mimosa. Expect notes of citrus, bergamot, and fresh white flowers on the nose and palate.
If you’re planning any kind of holiday brunch, or just like the occasional spontaneous solo sip of bubbles, you’ll want to keep a healthy stock of Mionetto’s adorable mini Prosecco bottles at all times. These babies each contain a generous single glass or two to three mimosas, depending on how you choose to drink or serve it. Best of all, the Prosecco itself is of value that belies the price tag with its light body, crisp, clean dryness, bright acidity, and bouquet of stone fruits and perfectly ripe orchard apple.
For some, rosé might seem like a warm-weather wine, but if you ask Mumm Napa Head Winemaker Tami Lotz, she’ll tell you a different story. Personally, she enjoys the house’s Brut Reserve Rosé most after it’s been chilled in the snow. This coral-hued sparkling rosé is an amalgam of up to 20 different lots across Napa, a blend of mostly pinot noir and chardonnay. It’s creamy, beautifully dry with bright acidity, and offers deeply enticing notes of plum, strawberry preserves, and baking spices on the palate. Sip it by a roaring fireplace throughout the holidays for peak enjoyment.
While you might think of Italy as being synonymous with Prosecco (which isn’t wrong), there’s much more of the country’s sparkling wine scene just waiting to be discovered. Miguel Martinez, a sommelier at Vino Veritas Wine Bar and Bottle Shop in Portland, Oregon, is partial to this lovely bottle of bubbles from Trentino, a mountainous winemaking region in northern Italy that uses the Traditional Method to make its namesake wines. Iconic Trentodoc producer Ferrari and its beloved vintage Blanc de Blancs, Perlé, is Martinez’s go-to, thanks to its golden-yellow color, elegant richness (though make no mistake, this is a dry wine), and notes of almonds, apple skin, and subtle spice.
If you haven’t yet ventured into the world of South African wines, this Brut is a good place to start. One of our favorite sparkling wine categories of all time is Méthode Cap Classique, or the country’s take on the Traditional Method (think of it as the Champagne of South Africa). Iconic producer Graham Beck is a great way to begin your MCC quest—this classic blend of chardonnay and pinot noir is not only a perfect representation of the Western Cape’s terroir and winemaking style, but it is also just plain delicious. Perhaps that’s why it was served at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration and one of Obama’s presidential wins.
“Sparkling wine from Israel sounds like the perfect option to celebrate the holidays,” says WSET Advanced Spanish wine scholar Myrna Elguezabal. “This is a 100 percent chardonnay sparkling wine produced in the northern Golan Heights, the coolest viticultural area in Israel. A beautiful sparkling wine with aromas of white flowers, pears, bread, and a note of minerality—the perfect pairing for oysters, creamy pasta dishes, and an end of the year toast!”
“Lambrusco is a much-ignored and misunderstood yet pleasurable celebration in a bottle,” says Anneliese Place, a private sommelier and WSET Level 3 candidate based in Santa Barbara, California. “I myself ignored it until my friend Marta came from Italy and gifted me a bottle with a note: 'To share with open-minded people.' Like the word ‘Riesling’ strikes some as a basic sweet wine, Lambrusco has had its share of misinformation and wine snobbery. [But with] plums, pomegranate, and black cherry still holding on to the sweetness of the grape, it pairs well with olives, hard cheese, red meats, and anything Italian as far as my friend Marta was concerned (and I do believe she is correct).”
Chances are you’ve never heard of (let alone tasted) a Brazilian sparkling wine. Luckily, there’s a great 2018 vintage on the market, thanks to D.M. Brut, a new producer that seeks to bring the terroir of southern Brazil to the rest of the world (or the United States, at least). This wine is a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir—a classic combo for Champagnes and other sparkling wines—and it’s made in the Traditional Method.
The brand seems to be a bit more about aesthetic than it is about communicating what the wine actually tastes like, but it’s quite pleasant on the palate with a subtle nose of lemon curd and marshmallow. You can expect ultra-fine bubbles and a punchy dryness with the deep berry notes of the pinot noir coming through nicely.
According to Juan Carlos Santana, beverage director for the Miami locations of L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Le Jardinier, one sparkling rosé in particular has caught his attention enough to make it into his holiday rotation. “Schwaderer Brut Rose is a sparkling wine from the Maule Valley region of Chile. Made from Pais grapes, this wonderfully playful rosé sparkler is perfect for spritz drinks, excellent with chicken and waffles, and even tastier all on its own,” Santana tells The Spruce Eats. “This wine changed my perception of what I thought sparkling wine from Chile could be.”
This bottle is a natural Cava made by seventh-generation winemakers that will make you question why you haven’t been drinking more Cava. Haitian-American sommelier extraordinaire Bianca Sanon articulates why this sparkling wine is a must-try. “For those of you who enjoy the rich, yeasty style of Champagne, Cava is made in the same method, with the second fermentation happening in the bottle. Brut Nature Classic is made from the traditional blend of Xarel-lo, Parellada, and Macabeo, grapes that, in my opinion, make the wine very aromatic and versatile. This is the kind of easy-drinking wine, with its delicate and refined bubbles and hints of citrus, apple, and brioche, that you want to sip on at the end of all of the holiday celebrations. Pair it with shellfish or greens and cornbread—a classic New Year's Day dish!”
If you’re looking to invest in a great bottle of bubbles outside of the Champagne category, look no further than this special blend of exceptional vintages from Domaine Serene in Oregon’s Willamette Valley (the Dundee Hills area, to be exact). The Evenstad Reserve Brut M.V. 2 is a wonderfully complex dry sparkling wine with bright acidity and notes of sumptuous brioche, Honeycrisp apple, lemon zest, and a slight earthiness. Pair this with anything fried and salty (like French fries or arancini) for a surefire crowd-pleaser.
“One of my favorite bubbles to recommend is Jacky Blot's Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Montlouis Triple Zero from the Loire Valley [in] France,” says sommelier and “V is for Vino” host Vincent Anter. According to him, this region is responsible for incredible bubbles made from 100 percent Chenin Blanc, and this particular bottle is rather unique.
“The ‘Triple Zero’ stands for zero chaptalization (sugar added before fermentation), zero liqueur de tirage (added yeast), and dosage (sugar added after fermentation for sweetness)—what you are left with is a ‘pétillant naturel,’ or ‘pét-nat’ where the bubbles occur naturally and with minimal intervention.” While many pét-nats can be downright terrible, he says, Jacky Blot’s is creamy and fresh and expresses the grape in its purest form.
Anter shares a few more details on this standout sparkling wine: “The final product is unfiltered. Bone dry, bubbly (though slightly less than Champagne method bubbles), and medium-bodied, with notes of apples, pineapple, creamy caramel, and minerality, [this wine] is a perfect starter wine for your New Year's Eve apps and cheese board.”
This sparkling wine is a fascinating pét-nat from the Castilla-La Mancha region of Spain and another favorite of Bianca Sanon. “Pampaneo Ancestral is a playful, crisp sparkling wine that comes from 100-year old pre-phylloxera (a.k.a. very old!) vines of Airen in Castilla-La Mancha. Airen is a grape typically used for bulk wine production in some of the sunniest places in Spain, but in the hands of Julián Ruiz of Esencia Rural, it is nothing short of expressive, refined, and delicious. This wine is made in the ancestral method, meaning the wine is bottled during the fermentation process when there’s a bit more sugar left, which then traps the remaining carbon dioxide and creates a bubbly atmosphere. Look for notes of starfruit and underripe pineapple, along with a bit of pear and sweetgrass.”
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Wine and spirits writer Céline Bossart has long been a proponent of sparkling wines—from her five-Euro-Asti-soaked college days in Italy to now with nearly 30 different bottles of bubbles from around the world in her wine fridge, she’s the one to ask if you want a 30-minute unbridled soliloquy on the subject.