Champagne may have the cachet when it comes to sparkling wine, but those that are not produced in the eponymous region of France can be just as enticing.
Paul Mekis, the Director of Wine for Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, says that although many sparkling wines made outside of France can be thin and delicate, there are a few that stand up to the best bubbly. “A handful have the complexity and character of good champagne,” he said.
And, it looks like they’re finally getting their due. Though champagne and sparkling wines represent only five percent of wine sales in U.S., according to data from the Chicago-based research firm Mintel, that segment saw the largest growth from 2009 to 2014, increasing nearly 25 percent. The reason for the jump? More reasonably priced domestic and imported sparkling wines were sought by consumers during the recession.
Mekis says that because domestic sparkling wine makers aren’t as well-known as champagne brands, some of the high-end ones still cost a lot less than champagne of the same ilk.
To his point, none of the five sparklers below run into the triple digits, but don’t let their affordability detract from their prestige— these sparking wines are among the most coveted in the category. Each has a unique profile, but they’re all fresh and light—perfect for summer drinking.
JCB no. 39, Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Chardonnay
The Boisset Family of wines, founded in Burgundy in 1961, has a reputation for creating memorable wines and this has stayed intact to this day with proprietor, Jean-Charles Boisset as the guiding visionary. This bubbly is everything it should be—crisp, refreshing and thirst-quenching. The Chardonnay grapes for it come from three appellations within Burgundy, each with their own terroir. They’re pressed right after picking and aged in steel tanks, and the result is a total fruit balm with undertones of honey.
JCB No. 39, $75, Burgundy, France
Ultramarine Blanc de Blancs 2010
Former biochemist Michael Cruse, 35, started his Sonoma brand in 2008 with the idea of showcasing California’s diverse terroir using techniques popular with small grower Champagne producers such as hand disgorging. He pressed the Chardonnay grapes for this first release into French oak barrels where they stayed for a year and fermented them again in bottles for almost four years. He ended with a bubbly that tastes bright and bone-dry but also rich and bold with flavors of lemon curd and honey. In fact, sipping it from a white wine glass instead of a standard flute is the best way to take in the full effect. Ultramarine, $48, Petaluma, Calif.
Soter Vineyards Mineral Springs Brut Rose 2011
Situated in the heart of Willamette, this vineyard grows its grapes at an elevation of 400 feet on an east-west ridge instead of a traditional south facing slope, which gives them superb exposure to sunlight. That position combined with Oregon’s cool climate makes for consistently high-quality wines, and this latest vintage, using mostly Pinot Noir grapes, is no exception. It feels dry and juicy at the same time and has notes of cherries, raspberries and crème brulée. The finish is creamy. Soter Vineyards, $65, Carlton, Ore.
Nino Franco Grave di Stecca Brut Sparkling 2010
From one of Italy’s best known prosecco houses—it’s still run by the Franco family who founded it in 1919—this vintage is the star of the label’s portfolio. The Glera grapes used to make it grow on an ancient vineyard on the slopes of Prealpi in the Veneto, and while the opening is dry and mildly bubbly, a silky bouquet of fruit including strawberries and citrus follows. The two profiles eventually intermingle and have an aftertaste that lingers long after the sipping is done. Nino Franco, $46.99, Valdobbiadene, Italy
Gramona Celler Batlle Gran Reserva Brut 2004
Though this more than 125 year-old family-run label in the Catalonian region produces reds and whites, the high-end aged cavas are the reason for its fame. Made with a blend of 70 percent Xarello and 30 percent Macabeu grapes, the wine is fermented in wood barrels and then aged for ten years in bottles. This latest vintage is lightly sparkling instead of full-on foam and has notes of tangerine, lemon and white peach. Slight nuttiness—a common characteristic of fine champagne—is also distinctive. Gramona, $95, Penedes, Spain