Champagne for Every Budget
Sparkling wines that please your palate and your pocketbook
The cost of Champagnes and sparkling wines varies widely, but fortunately there are good choices in just about every price range. Here are some of our favorites from vintners around the world.
At the high end of the spectrum are vintage Champagnes, usually the producers' best, and they cost between $75 and $350. Obviously, if you have a generous budget or you're having a small, intimate wedding, you can indulge. However, even those hosting larger weddings may want just one or two of these special bottles for the head table (or for the bridal suite afterward). Among the finest are 1996 Bollinger Grand Anne Brut Champagne ($78), 1996 Dom Perignon ($130), 1995 Veuve Clicquot Grand Dame ($190), and 1988 Krug Vintage Brut ($195).
Most vintners also make nonvintage Champagne, wines from several years that are blended to create a consistent house style. These refined, crisp, and delicious wines are excellent Champagne values, selling in the $40 to $60 range. Try Laurent-Perrier ($42), Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label ($42), Pol Roger ($38), and Piper-Heidsieck ($50).
Good sparkling wines are produced in many other regions of France besides Champagne. One is Burgundy, where the wines are called crémants de Bourgogne. Try François Labet ($17) or Charles de Fère from Boisset ($13). In the Loire Valley, sparkling Vouvrays (from the Chenin Blanc grape) have less mousse ("fizz") than Champagne, but are still elegant and refreshing. Look for Bouvet-Ladubay ($19) or Château Sainte-Radegonde ($14). Crémant d’Alsace is created from a blend of traditional Champagne grapes and Alsatian grapes like Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Riesling. Depending on the combination, they range from tart and citrusy to steely and mineral-flavored. Good choices include Boeckel ($16) and Dopff au Moulin ($17).
Two styles of sparkling wine come from Italy. The first, prosecco, is crisp and dry, with a vibrantly floral and citrus character. About a third of proseccos are called frizzante; they have a lighter mousse than the others, which are described as spumante, or fully sparkling. For proseccos, look for Sandi ($11) and Valdobbiadene ($12). The second style is asti spumante, which has traditionally been considered a syrupy, fizzy concoction. However, many modern versions are floral, fruity, and refreshing, such as those from Martini and Rossi ($12) and Fontafredda ($13).
Spanish sparkling wine, or cava ("cellar"), offers some of the best values. Cavas are made with white Spanish grapes: macabeo, parellada, xarello and, increasingly, Chardonnay. By law, cavas must be aged in the bottle for at least nine months, and the grand reserves for three years. Cava tastes less yeasty and more earthy than Champagne and has a deeper golden color. As with sparkling wines from Italy, the warmer climate means that cavas are also less acidic than Champagne. Try Codorníu Cuvée Raventos ($14), Freixenet Cordon Negro ($11), or Segura Viudas ($11).
Nearly all sparkling wine from Germany, made from a variety of white grapes, is known as Sekt. The best is Deutscher Sekt, the only one made from the two traditional German grapes, Riesling and Müller-Thurgau. German sparklers have a zesty, mineral character. They are usually either trocken ("dry") or halbtrocken ("medium dry"). Good labels include Henkell Trocken ($12) and Kupferberg Gold ($9). Deutscher Sekt, produced in smaller quantities, is harder to find, though worth seeking out.