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Champagne Look-Alikes

True, when it comes to elegance, finesse—and sheer pedigree—it’s hard to beat a genuine French Champagne, from the chalky vineyards of the Champagne region of France. However, you can find some great “look alikes” from elsewhere, especially if you look regions that excel in cool-climate grapes. Generally, these grapes get crafted into lovely sparklers.

Non-Champagne regions known for great sparkling wines include:

The Loire Valley: Wines from this region are often off-dry (that is, a touch sweet).  While winemakers can choose from about a dozen grape varieties to craft their blends, the most renown whites are anchored by Chenin Blanc, resulting in wines with a great balance of fruit and citrus notes. With red-fruit refreshment, rosés made with Cabernet Franc are admirable, too.

Labels to look for:
• Bouvet-Ladubay Saumur Rosé Excellence Brut ($15)
• Château de l’Aulée Brut Crémant de Loire ($12)
• J.M. Monmousseau Brut Crémant de Loire ($17)

Alsace: While Alsace is known for its dry, minerally wines made from Riesling, it’s the Pinot Gris grape that gets crafted into the most respected Alsatian sparkling wines; however, other grapes, including Pinot Blanc, Pinot, Noir, and—yes— Riesling, may make their way into some balanced blends. Alsace’s rosé sparkling wines, made from Pinot Noir, are among the most renown outside of Champagne.

Labels to look for:
• Lucien Albrecht Brut Rosé Crémant d’Alsace ($19)
• Joseph Cattin Brut Crémant d’Alsace ($21)
• Pierre Spar Brut Crémant d’Alsace Réserve ($17)

Burgundy: It’s no surprise that a region that specializes in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes (two classic Champagne grapes) crafts some great sparkling wines.  However, in Burgundy, other grapes—including Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Aligoté—may also make their way into the mix; hence, Burgundy sparkling wines vary in style from light to rich. The best approach to finding a bottle is to buddy up to a trusted wine merchant and describe the style you like best.

 

Wini Moranville is the author of The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Every Day [1], and the co-author of The Braiser Cookbook [2]. Follow Wini on Facebook at Chez Bonne Femme [3].