I love bubbly! And I enjoy and appreciate it from places around the world. Of course, champagne is always king, but there are so many regions doing great things with sparkling wine. And many are even making wines in the “Traditional Method,” which is the method with a second fermentation that is used to produce champagne. It would be a shame to limit yourself to just champagne. Plus, your wallet will thank you when purchasing many of them. Let’s explore some sparkling wine around the world.
Of course France is here, but not from where you think. We’re going way south of Champagne to the Languedoc’s Limoux region. Crémant de Limoux is a sparkling wine from the Limoux region in southern France. It’s crafted in the traditional method like chamoagne, often with Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Mauzac grapes. Known for its fine bubbles and crisp acidity, Crémant de Limoux offers a more affordable alternative to Champagne with distinct fruity and floral notes. I’ve had several of these and they really do come at amazing price points. Gerard Bertrand Cremant de Limoux Brut Rosé ($25) and Cote Mas Cremant de Limoux Rose Brut ($18) are both great examples of vibrant and fruity rosé wines from the region. I’ve seen the Cote Mas as low as $13!
Argentina is gaining recognition for its sparkling wines, often produced using the Traditional Method. While of course we know Argentina for Malbec, when it comes to sparkling wine, varieties like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir take center stage. The high-altitude vineyards contribute to the wines’ acidity and complexity. Regions like Mendoza and Patagonia are particularly notable for their sparkling wine production, offering diverse styles from brut to extra brut. And one producer leading the way is Domaine Bousquet. I’ve previously enjoyed their Charmat Method sparkler and was excited to see that they now produce Traditional Method sparkling wines. These organic wines come at ridiculously affordable price points. I’ve previously written about their business structure which helps them to keep prices low. At around $15, there’s not much to think about.
Yes, we know Italy for Prosecco, but there is so much more to Italian bubbly. A couple of years ago, I was introduced to Alta Langa and seriously swooned! Alta Langa is an Italian sparkling wine produced in the Alta Langa region of Piedmont. This traditional method sparkler typically features Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes like champagne. Known for its elegance, complexity, and extended aging, Alta Langa wines undergo a minimum of 30 months on lees. This extended contact results in fine bubbles and a rich texture. Enrico Serafino is one of the most well-known Alta Langa producers as they’ve been making classic-method sparkling wine since the foundation of the winery in 1878.
Similarly, Franciacorta is another Italian sparkling wine produced in the Franciacorta region in Lombardy. Crafted using the Traditional Method, it often includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc grapes. Notable for its high-quality standards, including lower yields, hand harvesting, and gentle grape pressing, Franciacorta undergoes a minimum of 18 months of aging on lees. The resulting wines exhibit a fine perlage, crisp acidity, and a complex flavor profile. For many, Franciacorta rivals Champagne in terms of elegance and is celebrated for its refined, artisanal production. A couple of my faves are Fratelli Berlucchi Freccianera Rosa Brut Rose and Ca’del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvee Prestige.
After a fantastic trip to Catalonia, the beating heart of Cava, last year I have high hopes for the future of Cava. In fact, it’s been about two years since Cava’s new quality regulations went into effect giving consumers better assurances of the deliciousness in the bottle. Like the other wines, Cava is produced using the traditional champagne method, and features native grape varieties like Macabeo, Xarel·lo, and Parellada, as well as international varieties like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It comes in various styles, from dry to sweet, and is known for its affordability and versatility. Two that I love are the Avinyo La Ticota Gran Reserva Cava and the Bodegas Naveran Dama Cava.
And yes, there is definitely some bulk, blah Cava out there. But if you want to experience the heights to which Cava can go, grab a bottle of “Cava de Paraje Calificado.” Introduced in 2017, this top designation for Cava is reserved for exceptional single-vineyard or estate-produced Cavas. Wines with this distinction must meet stringent criteria, including extended aging requirements and specific viticultural practices. Cava de Paraje Calificado aims to highlight and elevate the quality of top-tier Cavas, providing a premium tier within the broader category of Cava wines.
While not always easy to find, they are definitely worth seeking out. But I’m told that some producers are stepping up efforts to export more of these wines so that the world can understand how exquisite these wines are. The folks at Codorníu actually offer these wines direct from the winery on their 15 Bodegas website.
After doing a blind tasting of 50 American sparkling wines hosted by Jeff Kralik aka The Drunken Cyclist a couple of weeks ago, I’m quite bullish on the state of USA bubbly!
The best thing about blind tasting is that we take the bias out of what we think we like. After the big reveal, I was amazed at some of producers which were responsible for multiple of my faves.
And here are my top wines of the tasting:
Cheers to sparkling wine around the world!