Best Sparkling Wines to Substitute Champagne

Sparkling wines might be synonymous with Champagne, but they are in no way limited to the French beverage. Check out some sparkling wine substitutes here.

By Shira Telushkin

Best Sparkling Wines to Substitute Champagne
Photo by Shutterstock

Champagne is often at the top of the list of alcoholic beverages to serve at a wedding.

But when it comes to bubbly, celebratory wines, there are other sparkling wine options beyond Champagne. From English sparkling wine to Italian sparkling wine, there are so many different wines with sweetness, flavor, and bite. Here are some of the best Champagne alternative suggestions.

What is Champagne?

When it comes to weddings, Champagne is one of the more popular beverages. But what exactly is Champagne? The effervescent wine gets its name from a region in northern France known as Champagne. And while there are lots of sparkling wines out there, only wine produced in this specific French region made under a strict set of rules and conditions actually qualifies as Champagne.

Best Sparkling Wines to Substitute Champagne Photo Credit // Shutterstock

What is the Difference Between Champagne and Sparkling Wine?

The main difference between Champagne and sparkling wine is where and how the wine is produced. As mentioned, a bottle of bubbly can only be considered Champagne if:

  • It’s actually produced in the Champagne region of Northern France,

  • It follows the traditional champagne method of secondary fermentation, and

  • It uses one of three approved grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Pinot Meunier.

If a bottle doesn’t tick all of those boxes, it’s not Champagne; instead, it falls under the sparkling wine category.

When Did Champagne and Sparkling Wine Become Associated with Celebrations?

The origins of champagne are clouded in various legends, but for centuries the popping of a bottle of Champagne was considered the mark of a joyful and jubilant moment, especially in the 18th century French courts, where Champagne became the bottle of choice for joyous occasions. Today, the fizzy drink is associated with all sorts of celebrations and festive season events, like New Year’s, Christmas, and—you guessed it—weddings.

How To Choose a Champagne Alternative

If Champagne isn’t your style (or in your budget), not to worry: not all cork-popping wines need to be from the French region of Champagne. When looking for a substitute wine for Champagne, there are a few things to consider. Most important is the taste and the experience. For many people, the taste is less important, as long as the wine is reasonably high quality. And you want to recreate the bubbles and fizz associated with Champagne—so make sure to stick to sparkling wines in favor of more traditional wines, like a Cabernet or Bordeaux. (Which you, of course, can also have at your wedding—just not as a substitute for Champagne!)

But the experience can make all the difference. Champagne is supposed to be a fun celebration of a drink, and you want the presentation to match. Not all sparkling wines open with a popped cork. For example, the Moscato d’Asti below does not pop with force when opened. If the popping of the cork is very important to you, then make sure you are choosing a wine where the cork comes in a small wire cage, known as a muselet. This is your tip that the cork will pop when you open it.

Sparkling Wines to Substitute for Champagne

Want to explore your options? Here are some suitable Champagne alternatives:

  1. Prosecco: Prosecco, made in Italy, is one of the most well known sparkling wines outside of Champagne. It’s known for its fruity taste and can be frothier than other bubbly wines. This is an all-around great option for celebratory drinking and is an ideal substitute for Champagne. (It also works well if you’re having a mimosa bar at your wedding!)

  2. Cava: Cava is a sparkling wine produced in Spain, and it is becoming increasingly popular in the US. Though cava comes in a range of sweetness options, the most common varieties tend to be dry. Cava is generally available at inexpensive prices and considered a high-quality option for sparkling wine. This is the wine you want to get when you want a sparkling wine, but something a little unexpected for your guests.

  3. Schramsberg Vineyards: The Schramsberg Vineyards of California produce a range of sparkling wines that have received high praise for their bubbles, flavors, and attention to detail. Their sparkling wines can be pricey, but the methods of their winemaking produce complex bottles that speak for themselves. If you want a US-based sparkling wine that will impress, this is the place to go.

Best Sparkling Wines to Substitute Champagne Photo Credit // Shutterstock
  1. Lambrusco: Lambrusco is an Italian sparkling red wine, which differentiates it from the abundance of sparkling white wines. For a long time, this was considered a cheaper bottle, favored among older adults, but it has gained new attention in recent years. Don’t be afraid to break this out when you want sparkling wine that’s a little different from your typically glass of bubbly.

  2. Moscato d’Asti and Moscato Asti Spumante: Moscato, usually produced either semi-sparkling or sparkling (but make sure you’re not buying it still), is a sweet, sparkling wine that’s usually inexpensive and easy to drink, thanks to its high sugar content. This is the wine for guests who might wrinkle their noses at dry red wines, but will be delighted to find a glass of something sweet and delicious.

  3. English Sparkling Wine: Wine regions in England share similar soil, weather, and climate patterns to the Champagne wine region of France—so if you’re looking for a sparkling wine that will create a similar look, feel, and taste to Champagne, consider an English Sparkling Brut. This is a great alternative if you want to serve guests a sparkling wine that will have them thoroughly convinced they’re sipping on a high-quality vintage Champagne.

  4. Crémant. Crémant sparkling wines are wines created using the traditional method—but they’re produced in other regions of France, not Champagne. Popular varietals include is Crémant de Limoux Crémant de Loire, Crémant de Bourgogne, and Crémant D’alsace. If you want to serve something different and special for your wedding, try a Rosé Crémant, which has the beautiful pink hue typically associated with rosés.

  5. Sparkling Chardonnay. Chardonnay is a crowd-pleaser—so, if you want to go with a Champagne alternative that’s likely to be a hit with a large percentage of your guests, you can’t go wrong with a sparkling version of this sweet, classic white wine.

  6. Franciacorta. A lesser-known Italian sparkling wine, Franciacorta actually more closely resembles Champagne than Prosecco, both in taste and the way it’s produced—so if you want your sparkling wine to mirror the experience of drinking a glass of Champagne, this is a great alternative.

  7. Sekt. Sekt is a German sparkling wine with a long history that’s regained popularity in recent years. One of the most popular versions is made from Riesling, which gives the sparkling wine a lighter flavor than other Champagne alternatives—making it a great option, particularly for summer weddings.

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