Sparkling wine is the toast of the town in the holiday season, but the fancy French stuff is only one of the bubbly choices you have for festive occasions. Champagne — a sparkling wine so popular that its name has become a generic descriptor for bubbly — gets its name, like all French wines, from the region where it is produced. In the European Union and many other countries, the term “champagne” is protected legally by the 1891 Treaty of Madrid, which allows the word to be used only for sparkling wine that originates in the Champagne appellation. The Treaty of Versailles after World War I reaffirmed Champagne’s special status.
If a bottle of sparkling wine does not say Champagne AOC on the label, it isn’t true Champagne. But that doesn’t mean your glass of tiny bubbles is any less celebratory. There are delightful sparkling wines from Spain, Italy and Missouri that can easily hold their own with their French cousins in the fizz department. Here are some sparklers to consider before you pop the next cork.
Champagne, a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes, is produced in France. It can have a light, citrusy aroma — or no aroma at all — with a clean, slightly tart or yeasty taste. The texture is rich and creamy with a nice balance of acid. Well-known brands include Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot and Nicholas Feuillatte.
French sparkling wines produced outside of Champagne are called Crémant. In the Loire Valley, Crémant is a blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc.
Cava is a Spanish sparkler whose name means cave or cellar, a nod to the early days of oenology when wines were aged in caves. Although no longer allowed to call it “Spanish champagne” on the label, Spaniards call it champaña (or xampany in Catalan).
Macabeu, Parellada and Xarel·lo grapes make up the traditional Cava blend, which has a distinctive, green apple taste; some vintners now add a bit of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Subirat. Familiar brands are Codorníu and Freixenet.
Italy produces a number of effervescent food-friendly wines, in either spumante (fully sparkling) or frizzante (slightly sparkling) styles. Moscato d’Asti, made from Moscato Bianco grapes in the Piedmont province of Asti is a sweet sparkler with flavors of ripe peaches and honey, usually served with pastries. Good choices are Bartenura and Strevi.
If you like your Italian bubbles without sweetness, reach for Prosecco. Made from Glera grapes blended with Pinot Bianco or Pinot Grigio, Prosecco is a product of northern Italy. The taste is crisp, with hints of peach and apple. Mionetto and Ruffino are widely available in mid-Missouri.
Italians are also fond of frizzante, wines with just a slight bit of fizz to them. Banfi’s Principessa Perlante, from Cortese di Gavi grapes, is lightly effervescent with hints of pineapple and apple. Rosa Regale is a red Brachetto with the flavor of strawberries that pairs nicely with chocolate.
Prefer to drink local? Stone Hill Winery hit a homerun with its Brut Rosé, garnering a Best of Class for sparkling wines at the 2011 Missouri Wine Competition. The deep pink blend of Vidal and Chambourcin delivers a delicate aroma and flavor of raspberries.
Stone Hill’s Blanc de Blancs is a crisp, clean Vidal sparkler with citrusy notes and a toasty undertone. Les Bourgeois Vineyards produces a dry, crisp sparkling wine called Brut from Vidal grapes grown in the Rocheport vineyards.
Always serve sparkling wines cold; ideal drinking temperature is 45 to 48 degrees F.