Cheap Champagne Alternatives: Cava and Prosecco

With New Year's Eve approaching, and with the inflated Euro jacking the cost of French Champagne, 'tis time to look for more affordable options for your day-after-decadence hangover. Thankfully for the financially challenged, the Italians make Prosecco and the Spaniards craft cava.

Cava, named after the caves in which this sparkling wine is stored, is Spain's solution to Champagne. And it should be yours. Producers create the bubbles in the same fashion - with a second fermentation in the bottle (called "Methode Champenoise" or Champagne Method) — yet cava's flavor can be earthier and a bit stronger, likely because of the usage of indigenous macabeo, parellada, and xarello grapes in addition to the traditional French grapes chardonnay and pinot noir. Tightly regulated under Spanish wine laws, Cava is principally produced in the Penedes region in east central Spain. Good ones:

Codorniu Pinot Noir Brut Cava, $14

Segura Viudas Aria, $12

Sumarroca Brut Reserve Cava, $11

Prosecco, the name of a perfumey grape as well as a lightly fizzy, refreshing sparkling wine from Italy, can be absolutely beautiful but also complete crap. Shopping by name or specific region is imperative. The bubbles are introduced using the charmat method, defined by pumping the wine into a huge, industrial tank, adding additional yeast and sugar to start a second fermentation (creating the bubbles) and sealing it to keep in the carbon dioxide. The best prosecco grapes are grown in the Veneto in northeastern Italy, in a designated region called Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, but there are millions of questionable quality bottles bearing the Prosecco name. Look for this region on the label or the following suggestions: 

Martini and Rossi Prosecco, $12

Mionetto Prosecco Brut, $12

Casalnova Prosecco, $15

Zardetto Prosecco Brut, $15

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