36 Alternatives to Champagne
'Tis the season for bubbly, so bust out those flutes!
We've already taken you around the world in 80 bubbles, and even highlighted France's lesser-known, non-Champagne sparkling wine producers. Now, we're offering up some of our editor's picks for other international bubbles, just in time for your holiday-party hopping.
These picks—from California, Italy's Franciacorta and even South Africa—will definitely keep the Yuletide merry and bright.
California: Non-Vintage Sparkling Wine
91 Chandon NV Brut Reserve Pinot Noir Rosé (Sonoma-Napa). Floral and inviting, this features 24% Chardonnay in an otherwise Pinot Noir-based sparkler. The two combine for an inviting nose of fresh wild strawberry jam amidst a smooth, silky texture and creamy mousse. The acidity is sharp and generous. —V.B.
abv: 13% Price: $35
91 Mumm Napa NV Brut Rosé (Napa Valley). A hearty 80% Pinot Noir dominates in this sparkler, rounded out with 20% Chardonnay. With a pink-salmon hue, it offers peach and wild strawberry aromas followed by similar, medium-bodied flavors, with the addition of succulent plum. —V.B.
abv: 12.5% Price: $24
91 Scharffenberger NV Brut Excellence (Mendocino County). Beautifully balanced between maturity and freshness, this elegant bubbly combines appetizing cherry, almond and ginger flavors with a suave texture and long finish. It achieves a level of personality and sophistication beyond simple fruitiness. —J.G.
abv: 12% Price: $20
90 Roederer Estate NV Brut Rose (Anderson Valley). This is a mouthfilling, plush-textured, copper colored bubbly with hints of cherry and raspberry in the ripe flavors, firm acidity to balance them and tiny bubbles to keep it all lively. Made with 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, it finishes with a slightly sweet sensation. —J.G.
abv: 12% Price: $29
California Vintage Sparkling Wine
97 Roederer Estate 2006 L’Ermitage (Anderson Valley). All the benefits of maturity come through in this deliciously complex flagship sparkling wine of the French-owned estate. It shows very minute, slow-rising bubbles and a beautiful bouquet of ginger, cinnamon, cherry and fresh croissants. The flavors are layered, intricate, subtle but somehow rich. A lush and seemingly soft texture is supported by fresh acidity that encourages a long and delicate finish. Mature, but not old, it should be great through 2020 or longer. Cellar Selection. —J.G.
abv: 12.6% Price: $48
95 Iron Horse 2010 Wedding Cuvée (Green Valley). Pinkish-gold in color, this lovely cuvée is a blend of 74% Pinot Noir and 26% Chardonnay, the winery’s take on a Blanc de Noirs. Fruity in peach, raspberry and blood orange, it is multi-faceted and complex, dry and elegant with a long finish that leans herbal, the acidity dialed perfectly right, gentle on the palate and memorable. Editors’ Choice. —V.B.
abv: 13.5% Price: $42
93 Goat Bubbles 2011 Sierra Madre Vineyard Crémant (Santa Maria Valley). Vigorous bubbles present a Pinot Noir-like nose of crushed rocks, Indian spice and sour earth on one of the best Central Coast sparklers of the vintage. The intriguing flavors center on pluot and nectarine flesh, with fringes of salinity, lemon juice, cardamom and even dashes of curry. —M.K.
abv: 12.6% Price: $38
92 Chandon 2003 étoile Tête de Cuveé (Napa-Sonoma). Seven years on lees, the winery’s top cuveé, in this case vintage designated, offers substantial aromas of pear, almond and hazelnut, with an intensity of acidity and silky texture to round it out. From 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir, this stunner provides an excellent chance to taste an older sparkler from Napa and Sonoma grapes. —V.B.
abv: 13% Price: $100
92 Equinox 1998 Blanc De Blanc (Santa Cruz Mountains). Golden yellow in color, this 16-year-old sparkler presents uniquely pleasant aromas of corn bread, chamomile and yellow flowers. It’s not powerfully effervescent, but manages to strike up a rich bubbly cream on the palate, with flavors of corn tortilla and Meyer lemon making for memorable sipping. —M.K.
abv: 12.5% Price: $100
92 Inman Family 2012 OGV Estate Brut Rosé Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley). Made in a méthode Champenoise style, this is crafted from estate-grown fruit, the color crimson pink, the flavors high-toned strawberry and fresh citrus. Light on its feet and dry, it features bubbles that form a rich mousse counterpointed by crisp natural acidity. On the finish is the suggestion of fennel. —V.B.
abv: 12% Price: $56
92 Mumm Napa 2009 Devaux Ranch (Napa Valley). This dry, savory, small-production sparkler has deep layers of fresh-baked brioche and orange blossom. The golden yellow color provides a sign of its longer evolution in bottle. The finish is long and lingering, making this a memorable wine. —V.B.
abv: 12.5% Price: $42
91 Brewer-Clifton 2011 3D Sparkling Chardonnay (Sta. Rita Hills). Sta. Rita Hills stars Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton deliver a golden-hued sparkler with aromas of yellow flowers, fresh picked pears and pressed apples. It explodes on the palate with lemon zest followed by a cooked apple soda, with a touch of tannic tartness on the end. —M.K.
abv: 13% Price: $68
91 Gloria Ferrer 2006 Royal Cuvée (Carneros). Yeasty and woody after lengthy time in the bottle, this is a complex cuvée that’s dry and savory more than sweet. Secondary flavors of apple and pear are crisp and developed. —V.B.
abv: 12.5% Price: $37
91 Laetitia 2011 Brut de Blancs (Arroyo Grande Valley). A laser-focused nose of lime zest, limestone and a hint of orange blossom characterize this very refreshing sparkler. The bubbles dance across the tongue with lean, not lush flavors of orange peel and squeezed citrus. —M.K.
abv: 12.5% Price: $30
88 La Vigna di Iseppo 2012 Sui Lieviti (Prosecco). Fragrant, fresh and frothy, this vibrant wine opens with heady aromas of jasmine, tropical fruit and lime. Made by letting the wine finish fermentation in the bottle on its lees, it doles out tangy lemon zest, candied nectarine, green apple and a saline note alongside brisk acidity. The Vine Collective. —K.O.
abv: 11.5% Price: $18
88 Piera Martellozzo 2013 Giade (Prosecco). As the cloudy sediment at the bottom of the bottle indicates, this intriguing Prosecco was refermented in the bottle as opposed to in steel tanks. It opens with a heady aroma of white flower, green apple and kiwi. These carry over to the palate with a hint of exotic fruit and lime alongside a soft, persistent mousse and brisk acidity. It has a dry, crisp finish. Wine Worldwide. —K.O.
abv: 11% Price: $15
88 Valdellövo 2012 Bade Col Fondo (Prosecco di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene). Refermented in the bottle on its lees, this fresh and lively wine has a slightly cloudy appearance thanks to fine sediment on the bottom. Delicate aromas of white flower, citrus and stone fruit lead to a palate that delivers tart green apple, white peach and lime. Delectatio Wines. —K.O.
abv: 11% Price: $26
87 Albino Armani NV Casa Beffi Col Fondo (Prosecco). Made with organically grown grapes and refermented in the bottle on its lees, this features aromas of honeysuckle, almond and ripe apple. The dry palate delivers yellow peach, tart green apple and nectarine zest alongside sharp acidity. Saranty Imports. —K.O.
abv: 10.5% Price: $19
87 Drusian 2013 Col Fondo (Prosecco Treviso). This undergoes a second fermentation in bottle that leaves a slight sediment at the bottom. Aromas recall delicate white flower, green apple, citrus and bread crust. The vibrant palate offers ripe Bartlett pear, nectarine and candied ginger accompanied by a creamy perlage. It’s balanced with lively acidity. Panebianco. —K.O.
abv: 11% Price: $16
93 Ferrari 2002 Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore (Trento). Italy’s most iconic sparkler, this is made entirely from Chardonnay and aged on its lees for at least 10 years. Layers of flavors include yeasty sensations of baked bread, pastry cream, honey, vanilla, juicy pear and candied lemon peel. It has depth and complexity, with an ultrafine mousse that enhances the creamy texture. Drink through 2020. Palm Bay International. —K.O.
abv: 12.5% Price: $130
90 Maso Martis 2010 Brut Rosé (Trento). Made with 100% Pinot Noir, this opens with fragrances of violet, rose and perfumed berry. Cinnamon-spice and a pastry note accent the juicy strawberry and wild cherry flavors while a soft mousse lends an elegant finish. Solstars Inc. —K.O.
abv: 12.5% Price: $50
89 Altemasi 2006 Graal Brut Riserva (Trento). A blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Nero, this delivers sensations of ripe Golden Delicious apple, acacia flower, toasted nuts and honey. The creamy palate is brightened by soft acidity and a refined perlage. Palm Bay International. —K.O.
abv: 12% Price: $55
94 Ca’ del Bosco 2005 Anna Maria Clementi Riserva (Franciacorta). This fragrant sparkler boasts layers of alluring aromas including bread crust, white spring flowers, cake spices, grapefruit and alpine herbs. The palate doles out succulent yellow peach, toasted almond, white pear and a hint of saline. Vibrant acidity and an elegant, lively mousse brighten the creamy flavors. It’s delicious now but shows aging potential. Drink through 2020. Banville Wine Merchants. Cellar Selection. —K.O.0
abv: 12.5% Price: $90
94 Fratelli Berlucchi 2007 Casa delle Colonne Zero Riserva (Franciacorta). Intriguing whiffs of smoke and mineral add depth to aromas of white flowers, toasted bread crumb and citrus on this Chardonnay-Pinot Nero blend. The vibrant palate delivers rich yellow apple, cherry, candied citrus and ginger alongside an ultra-fine perlage and brisk acidity. Made with no dosage, it finishes crisp and dry. Selected Estates of Europe Ltd. —K.O.
abv: 13% Price: $75
93 Barone Pizzini 2008 Bagnadore Riserva Non Dosato (Franciacorta). A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero and made without dosage, this opens with a delicate but alluring fragrance of white flower, citrus, stone fruit and pastry notes. The smooth, silky palate delivers lemon zest, ripe red apple, candied ginger and a yeasty note of baked bread alongside a soft, persistent mousse. Vignaioli Selection. —K.O.
abv: 12% Price: $55
93 Ferghettina 2007 Extra Brut (Franciacorta). This dry sparkling wine is made from 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir. Full of finesse, it delivers yellow apple and Bartlett pear aromas that carry over to the palate together with notes of almond biscuits and a note of vanilla. It’s extremely elegant, with a refined mousse and lively acidity. Empson USA Ltd. —K.O.
abv: 12.5% Price: $68
91 Bellavista 2007 Pas Operé Extra Brut (Franciacorta). Fragrances recall acacia, white spring flowers, honey, bread dough and beeswax. The concentrated palate delivers mature yellow apple, toasted walnut, clove, vanilla and pie crust alongside vivacious, persistent effervescence. Terra Moretti Trading. —K.O.
abv: 12.5% Price: $64
90 Antica Fratta 2007 Quintessence Extra Brut Riserva (Franciacorta). A blend of 55% Pinot Nero and 45% Chardonnay, this opens with aromas of honey, beeswax, acacia, vanilla and toast. The rich palate shows some complexity, delivering bread crust, lemon, apple, hazelnut and candied ginger alongside vibrant acidity and a soft, persistent mousse. Masciarelli Wine Co. —K.O.
abv: 13% Price: $60
91 Sparkling Pointe 2005 Brut Séduction (North Fork of Long Island). Honey and lemon accent the nose and palate of this stately flagship wine from Sparkling Pointe. Extended lees aging lends remarkable depth and complexity—shades of brioche and almond add a richness on the palate. Revitalizing acidity and a train of tiny bubbles lead to a soft, pillowy foam. Editors’ Choice. —A.I.
abv: 12.5% Price: $60
88 Lakewood 2011 25th Anniversary Blanc de Noir (Finger Lakes). Pretty lavender and violet notes entice on the nose of this sparkling Pinot Noir. It’s bold in mousse, boasting a dense, mouthfilling foam, yet fresh apple and pear flavors are envigorated by zesty lemon-lime acidity, leading to a long finish. —A.I.
abv: 12% Price: $30
87 Damiani 2012 Bollicini (Finger Lakes). Hints of orange blossom accent sugar cookie and brioche in this sparkling blend of Chardonany, Pinot Noir, Cayuga and Pinot Gris. It’s zesty in lemon-lime acidity, finishing rich and dense. —A.I.
abv: 12.6% Price: $16
89 Graham Beck 2009 Premier Cuvée Blanc de Blancs Brut Méthode Cap Classique (Robertson). This bright and well-balanced sparkler leads with attractive aromas of fresh lemon and orange slices, lightly toasted brioche and subtle fynbos herbs. The palate is creamy and smooth, with crisp acidity and medium carbonation that lifts and refreshes the finish. Delicious now, or hold through 2017 for a more mature character and additional depth. Maritime Wine Trading Collective. —L.B.
abv: 12% Price: $26
88 Desiderius Pongrácz NV Méthode Cap Classique Pinot Noir-Chardonnay (Western Cape). This is an easy and clean sparkling wine, with attractive aromas of red apple, orange and dried hay. Bright, brisk carbonation results in a lively and refreshing palate. A citrus-rind flavor lingers on the softly toasty finish. Drink now. Z Wines USA. —L.B.
abv: 12% Price: $20
87 Avondale NV Armilla Brut Méthode Cap Classique (Coastal Region). This 100% Chardonnay MCC leads with rich, toasty notes of brioche, baked apple and soft nuttiness. The palate is round and full, with brisk carbonation but a fine mousse, and flavors of Honeycomb cereal and lime zest. Enjoy now. International Spirits & Wines, LLC. —L.B.
abv: 11.5% Price: $25
87 Boschendal NV Méthode Cap Classique Brut Rosé (Western Cape). An interesting blend of 50% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinotage and 20% Chardonnay, this sparkling rosé boasts bright aromas and flavors of watermelon rind, strawberry hull, peach pit and citrus rind. It’s soft and approachable, with a subtle smoky spice tone to the finish. Pacific Highway Wines & Spirits. —L.B.
abv: 12.5% Price: $24
86 Simonsig 2012 Kaapse Vonkel Brut Rosé (Stellenbosch). The Kaapse Vonkel (meaning Cape Sparkle in Afrikaans) Brut Rosé is a blend of 53% Pinot Noir, 45% Pinotage and 2% Pinot Meunier. It’s a subtle selection, offering delicate notes of rose, Asian pear, lemon custard and white strawberry. The palate is creamy yet brisk in medium carbonation, ending light and fresh. Quintessential Wines. —L.B.
abv: 12.5% Price: $24