Beyond Prosecco: Bubbly Alternatives for the Holidays

  • 01 of 07

    Go Beyond Prosecco

    Sam Howzit/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    The holiday season is upon us, and if you’re like many home entertainers, you’ll probably stock up on at least a few bottles of sparkling wine for the planned and impromptu guests who will come through your front door over the next few weeks. But which kind should you buy?

    Prosecco is probably your first thought. The refreshing Italian sparkler has surged in popularity over the past few years, and for good reason. Like champagne, its effervescence signifies opulence and celebration. But unlike champagne, it is generally inexpensive, which makes it a more attainable, everyday sort of indulgence.

    It tends to be one of the least expensive sparkling options, because most of the bottles of prosecco exported to the United States are produced in the Charmat method of sparkling wine making. That means it is made in bulk in large tanks and spends less time aging than sparkling wines made according to other methods. The resulting wines tend to be zesty and bright, but less rich and complex, generally speaking. That makes prosecco ideal for mimosas, but not always the best candidate for other sparkling wine situations

    Fortunately, if you are in the market for something a little different, don’t particularly like the taste of prosecco, or just feel like branching out, know that there are many different types of sparkling wine, each with their own unique characteristics. Here are some of our favorites.

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  • 02 of 07


    THOR/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    Americans often used the word champagne to describe any wine with bubbles. But technically speaking, sparkling wine is only champagne if it is produced in the Champagne region of France by way of the méthode traditionnelle. The méthode traditionnelle is a highly regulated, time-honored wine making process that involves combining still wine with yeast and sugar to provoke secondary fermentation in the bottle. That, in turn, creates carbonation as well as a flavor-imparting sediment called lees.

    Champagne is considered special because of this rigorous production method and because of the region’s specific terroir. This region is considered prime for growing superior champagne grapes, such as pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier.

    Champagne can be dry or sweet, white or pink, and either rich and brooding, or crisp and lively. It is also among the most expensive sparkling wine options. So, if you are trying to impress your guests, authentic champagne is the way to go. Just remember that a good champagne is complex and flavorful enough to be enjoyed in its own right. If you are planning on mixing your sparkling wine with juice or other modifiers to make cocktails, you are better off picking up a less expensive type.

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  • 03 of 07



    French sparkling wines made in the méthode traditionnelle outside of the Champagne region are called crémants. Alsace, Burgundy, Jura and the Loire Valley are home to many crémant producers.

    Because they don’t face the exact same laws as Champagne area wine makers, producers in these specific, legally defined areas may use a wide range of grapes to craft their sparkling wines, including pinot blanc, pinot gris, riesling and chenin blanc. But because the French wine industry is highly regulated in general, you can expect to find very high-quality crémants at a better price point than their champagne counterpoints.

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  • 04 of 07

    Pétillant Naturel (a.k.a., Pét-Nat)

    Sparkling wines categorized as pétillant naturel are made in the méthode ancestrale, which means they are bottled during primary fermentation, before all of the sugar is converted to alcohol. In many cases, pét-nat producers will also rely on wild yeast to ferment their wines, whereas other sparkling wine makers use commercial strains. The combination of those two elements means pét-nats can be rustic and even somewhat unpredictable. What’s more, many producers leave the sediment produced by fermentation in the bottle, lending the wine a cloudy appearance and an extra layer of funky flavor. If you’re hosting wine geeks over the holidays, you’ll want to break out the pét-nats for sure.

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  • 05 of 07



    In Spain, the sparkling wine of choice is cava. Like champagne, cava must be made in the méthode traditionnelle. It differentiates itself from its French counterparts by its reliance on native Iberian grape varietals like macabeo, parellada and xarel-lo. Cavas tend to be dry and delicately textured, with tiny, elegant bubbles. Serve one with a spread of holiday hors d’oeuvres or as an aperitif before a rich, celebratory meal.

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  • 06 of 07

    Moscato d’Asti


    If you’re looking for a holiday crowd pleaser, look no further than moscato d’Asti, made in Italy’s Piedmont region from muscat grapes. Moscatos are sweet, highly fragrant, lightly effervescent and lower in alcohol than most other sparkling wines (generally around 5.5% ABV). Because of moscato’s residual sugar levels, it is best to save them for before or after your main meal. Try serving one with fruit, a creamy, lactic cheese or a show-stopping dessert.

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  • 07 of 07


    Lore & Guille/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    If you thought all sparkling wine was white or pink, meet Lambrusco. It’s an effervescent red wine from Italy’s Emilia region that can be made in the méthode ancestrale or Charmat method. At its best, lambrusco is bright, zesty and rich with red fruit. Thanks to their fat-cutting acidity, dryer versions pair well with creamy pasta dishes or holiday spreads of cheese and cured meats. Sweet styles of Lambrusco (labeled amabile) should be served for with or for dessert.