Champagne is lovely, but not always affordable. So to help you enjoy great wine without breaking the bank, we've come up with a few suggestions. Everyone has heard of Cabernet Sauvignon, but what about Sagrantino? There are many lesser known grapes varieties and regions waiting for you to discover. These alternatives allow you to stick in budget without foregoing quality. Say no to two buck chuck!
1. Alternative Bubbly
• Crémant: I’ll take Sparkling wines of France for $200! What is Crémant de Loire? The sparkling wines of the Loire region. Or for that matter Crémant de “anything”: de Loire, de Jura, de Bourgogne. There are many regions in France that make gorgeous sparkling wines in the traditional Champagne method. You don’t always have to sacrifice an appendage to get Champagne quality.
• Cava: Made from the grapes Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada these wines are also made Méthode Champenoise, but Cava hails from Spain. There is a lot of Cava out there so to ensure quality we recommend sticking to the $20 and up price point.
• Prosecco: The sparkling wines of Italy we all know and love. There are many high quality examples of Proseccos out there like the Borgoluce Prosecco that is wonderfully dry and pairs perfectly with prosciutto and melon.
2. Off the Beaten Path Wine Regions
• Ribera del Duero: Tempranillo can take on many personalities. In regions such as Ribera del Duero in Spain you can find a big, bold alternative to California Cabernet.
• Alto Adige/Dolomites: There are many great wines being produced in this tiny region in North Eastern Italy. Bordering both Austria and Switzerland it’s smack-dab in the middle of the Dolomites and the Alps and definitely considered a cool climate region. Esoteric grapes such as Teroldego offer amazing quality.
• New Zealand: Martinborough, Marlborough and Central Otago are all excellent regions for Pinot Noir in New Zealand. As young wine growing regions (juxtaposed with Burgundy) you can find high quality Pinot without paying the price of “Grand Cru” history.
• Alsace: Thanks to German intruders this region is the only French AOC to label their wine by varietal, making their labels a touch easier to decipher. In Alsace you can find beautifully aromatic and textural white wines made from Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Definitely bang for you buck.
• The Canary Islands: One of our favorite wines come from these rad volcanic Islands off the coast of Morocco. The islands' ashy soil and their unique indigenous grapes allow for the delivery of gorgeous wines with a very distinct herbal minerality.
3. Neglected Grapes
• Aligoté: Batman and Robin, Wallace and Gromit, Tango and Cash, Chardonnay and Aligoté. Many of you may not know some white Burgundy can be a blend of Aligoté and Chardonnay. And just like a sidekick, the Aligoté grape rarely gets a chance in the spotlight. But if you can find a bottle of 100% Aligoté you’ll certainly thank us. This grape is a less fruit forward double to Pinot Grigio.
• Godello: Godello is a Spanish white grape produced mostly in the region Valdeorras (“Valley of Gold”) in Galicia, in northwestern Spain. This grape, much like Chardonnay, can show many different expressions dependent upon producer and region. The more mineral driven style resembles Chablis, while the richer styles from the Bierzo or Monterri regions can compare to a Mersault. Either way you will, it's phenomenal value.
• Gamay: Gamay is a great alternative to Pinot Noir and just an all around delicious light bodied red. Look for Gamay in Cru Beaujolais regions such as Fleurie.
• Sagrantino: Wines made from the Sagrantino grape in the village of Montefalco in Umbria, Italy are a value alternative for the Barolo lover. One of the most tannic grapes on the planet makes for a big, brooding wine that you can age for decades.
• Monastrell: Monastrell (AKA Mourvédre in the Bandol region of France) is produced in the region of Jumilla, Spain. This region is HOT, and can therefore offer full, inky reds with a gamey quality reminiscent of some richer Côtes du Rhones or Syrahs.
4. Other Tips
• Try off vintages. A reliable producer can often know how to avoid the pit falls that come with a challenging vintage. Not all wines from 2013 in Bordeaux should be dumped down the drain.
• If you can, find second labels. These wines are a great way to get the quality of a highly esteemed producer without the hefty invoice.
• We are always keeping our ears perked for small producers who put all their money into the wine rather than the large estate. Grower Champagne is a prime example.
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