A common misconception is that you absolutely have to toast with champagne. That outlook has probably resulted in hundreds of dollars of untouched bubbly forgotten in flutes at weddings everywhere. If you're not big on sparkling wine or you're trying to cut costs, you should explore all of your options—there's something for every budget and (almost) every palate.
Before you decide what guests will toast with at your wedding, you'll want to know the ins and outs of sparkling wines—where they come from, what to serve them with, and (of course) how much cash you'll have to shell out to get your hands on a good bottle.
The best bottles of this top-shelf bubbly start at $25 because of the unique climate in the specific region of France where all champagne is made. The wine also goes through two rounds of fermentation: once in tanks and again in the bottle. While the wine has some fruity notes, nutty and toasty flavors are also present, making champagne a perfect pairing for fried appetizers or first course fish.
Namesake grapes are fermented for this wine, which hails from the Treviso region of Italy. In its home country, Prosecco is considered the inexpensive, easy-drinking choice—some great bottles can be found for less than $15. Its frothy bubbles give off subtler fruit flavors like pear, green apple, and honeydew.
This Spanish wine can be either fruity or toasty, depending on how long it’s aged, and some varieties are blended to create a rosé. Cava falls somewhere between Prosecco and champagne on the scale from sweet to nutty, but because of market demand, its price point is lower than both—some top bottles sell for under $10.
After being dismissed for decades as a sweet seasonal wine, this pink drink is definitely having a moment. It’s made by leaving on dark grape skins during fermentation, or blending white and red wines. Prices run from cheap to moderate, but try a moscato rosé if you prefer sweetness, and a brut if dry wine is your favorite. Both varieties are available in flat or sparkling.
The first bottles of this sweet sparkling wine—named after the Italian region where it originates—were made less than 60 years ago. Franciacorta winemakers use the same traditional method and grape varieties employed by champagne makers. The flavor difference is due to the newer wine’s much warmer climate.
Bubbly on a budget
The thought of ordering enough champagne for your ever-growing guest list might give you a bit of budget anxiety. Luckily, there are great alternatives that are a fraction of the cost. But no matter what kind of sparkling wine you choose, there are ways to game the bubbly system. Serve champagne on a beer budget with these tips.
1 . Have wait staff serve modest pours of the bubbly stuff just before toasts begin. Hint: a standard bottle (750 mL) yields 5 full flutes, but up to 12 tasting portions.
2 . Ask the bartender to stash a high-end bottle just for you and your spouse—no one will notice that they toasted with something less expensive.
3 . If you go with coupes—which are wider and shallower than flutes—the wine will get warm and go flat faster. These glasses are best if bubbly will only be used for toasting.
4 . Set up a bubbly bar with liqueurs and fresh fruit for mixing—this way, everyone will have a personalized drink to raise at toast time. Try these combos:
Rosé + cranberry juice + orange liqueur
Franciacorta + sour mix + elderflower liqueur
Prosecco + peaches + lemon juice
Cava + blackberries + strawberries + peaches + orange liqueur + simple syrup
Champagne + peaches + lemon juice + simple syrup
Select a Sip
Now that you know what kind of bubbly you want and how to serve it, here’s a bottle for every budget, with expert insight from the sommeliers at Chambers Street Wines, which carries (and ships!) all these wines.
Il Fortunato 2016 Prosecco, $12.99
Organic, certified vegan wine making yields a fresh and dry prosecco. Nothing funky about it, just a very good and delicious wine at a fantastic price.
Filipa Pato NV Bairrada Brut Rosé, $13.99
Bairrada’s cooler maritime climate has a history of producing fresh and distinctive sparkling wines. Filipa Pato keeps the tradition alive with delicious and unpretentious brut rosé—spicy and zesty with notes of bright citrus and red berries.
François Pinon 2014 Vouvray Brut, $20.99
The old vine chenin blanc grapes in this French white are aged for 18 months before bottling. Fresh, vibrant, and mineral with a fine bead and soft mousse.
Tripoz NV Crémant de Bourgogne Nature, $21.99
Made from 100 percent Chardonnay, with ripe orchard fruit and lemon blossom aromas. Juicy stone and citrus flavors with a punchy finish.
Raventós I Blanc 2015 Conca del Riu Anoia de Nit Reserva Rosé, $22.99
The de Nit rosé continues to impress with aromas of pert pink lemonade, tart cranberry, and a hint of pepper. The palate is dry and elegant, with refreshing, bright acidity. This is an incredibly versatile rosé sparkling wine for aperitifs, charcuterie, fish, and seafood of all kinds.
Bruno Dangin NV Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc de Noirs, $23.99
This sip has soft bubbles and supple texture with a stony and persistent finish. It is a lovely bubbly for cocktails, but has enough character to pair with smoked salmon, caviar, or dim sum.
Julia Bernet 2012 Penedès Cava Ingenius Brut Nature, $25.99
Xavi Bernet makes the fabulous organic Julia Bernet Cavas, named after his young daughter Julia. A smokiness pervades the aroma of sweet cream and lemon blossoms.
Bérêche, Raphael NV Champagne Brut Réserve, $29.99
Notes of golden delicious apple and red fruit dominate, with a palate that is both fresh and rich. This will make for an elegant aperitif, and work beautifully with richer foods such as chicken, poached salmon, or lobster rolls.
Arcari + Danesi 2012 Franciacorta Dosaggio Zero, $37.99
The wine has a powerful aroma, with golden apple, ripe peach, layers of floral notes, and a pronounced toasty note. It is full, smooth, and very dry with a ripe orchard fruit and kiwi.
André Beaufort NV Polisy Brut Reserve, $38.99
One of the first certified organic growers in champagne, André is resolutely old-fashioned and classically styled. Great value and a great food wine as well. Serve with fish, white meats, and full-flavored cheeses.
Suenen NV Champagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Extra-Brut, $59.99
This is an intoxicating blend of lemon blossom, sea spray, and apricot aromas, while the palate is chalky and pungent. A fine, brisk champagne for an aperitif, fabulous with sushi, oysters, or any other seafood.