Like pearls and the “good” china, Champagne has long been revered as the drink of special occasions. Reserved for traditionally made sparkling wines of the eponymous region in northeast France, Champagne tends to turn up the price point more so than other sparkling wines from outside the famous viticultural appellation. Reign in that extra spending in a naturally costly time of year by following this list of non-vintage (NV), budget-savvy Champagne alternatives for New Year’s Eve, all for under $20.
Chandon NV Brut Classic ($19)
Anyone who has ever worked at a corporately owned bar knows this sparkler, often the solo domestic sparkling wine glass-pour on the list. And for a good reason: it contains the holy trinity of Champagne grape varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and the lesser known Pinot Meunier) for a solid sip of tree fruit (apples, pears) and citrus zest, backed by creamy spices and a crisp finish.
Gruet NV Blanc de Noirs ($17)
A popular style in Champagne, “blanc de noirs” quite literally means “white and black,” in reference to the white grapes (Chardonnay) that are blended with the red grapes (Pinot Noir) in the classic blend. This bottle of bubbs is predominantly Pinot, which is where it gets its salmon-pink hue, flavors of red berry fruits, toasted baking spices and dazzling acid.
Vilarnau NV Brut Reserva ($15)
If you haven’t already, meet cava; the extremely affordable sparkling wine from Spain’s Catalonia region. The wine must be produced in the traditional Champagne method and the main grape varieties are macabeu, parellada and xarel-lo (try saying that 10 times fast), which are all seen in this fresh bubbler from the 67-year-old producer. Juicy melon, apple flavors and spice make it a solid standalone sipper but also one that fits just right with grapefruit juice in the morning.
Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace NV Brut Rosé ($19)
France’s own affordable alternative to Champagne, Cremant d’Alsace is a sparkling wine that hails from the hills of Alsace (picture everything about “The Sound of Music” but with wine.) Intriguing with its strawberry and raspberry notes, plus herbal qualities, spices and an elegant finish, this rosé sparkler is hands-down one of the best bubbles out there for the price.
Valdo Brut Prosecco DOC ($11)
Self-proclaimed as the best-selling prosecco brand in its native Italy, Valdo borrowed its name from its region: the consonant-heavy Valdobbiadene, in Italy’s Veneto. To receive the designated DOC status, the wine has to be 100 percent Glera, the grape variety usually (but not always) used in prosecco production. And they deliver, with an approachable sipper boasting a broad, creamy mousse zipped up with bright acidity.
Dr. L Deutscher Riesling Sekt ($16)
It might be easy to make the connection of Riesling and Germany — the grape originated in the Rhine region of northwestern Deutschland — but it’s less of a straight shot to German sparkling wine, better known as sekt. Dr. Loosen (you might know him from his record-shattering Riesling production at Washington State’s Chateau Ste. Michelle winery) plugs his award-winning Riesling with carbonation for this racy refresher that will quench an Asian cuisine-fueled thirst.
Lini 910 NV Labrusca Rosso Lambrusco ($15)
That’s right – cold, bubbly red wine. From north-central Italy, Lambrusco is the name for the grape itself and for the region in which it is grown and produced. Typically categorized into three levels of sweetness — secco (dry), amabile (off-dry) or dolce (sweet) — this is a user-friendly, approachable welcome to an off-dry rendition. A little rustic, a little fruity and plenty tangy for a feisty night out of stained teeth.