Big Game Bubbly

by Brock Cummings

Whoever wins “The Big Game” will no doubt be happily popping the corks on bottles of Champagne worth hundreds of dollars (or more!). Sure we all wish to have that type of disposable income, but the reality is there are many producers of sparkling wines around the world that can give many Champagnes a run for their money - in the right context of course.

There is nothing exactly like Champagne. The history, culture, vineyards, grapes, soil, cellars, winemakers and climate all contribute to a very unique wine region that can’t quite be replicated anywhere else in the world. That exclusivity (and the warming climate tending to reduce yields of prime fruit) plays heavily into the cost of bottles of bubbly from its birthplace.

So lets explore some other sparkling options that are much better values while still delivering many of the key aspects of Champagne you love.

Antech Blanquette de Limoux

Blanquette de Limoux arranged with apples, goat cheese and feta cheese

It's back! This is one of our favorite Champagne alternatives. It's so fantastic we almost always make space for it on our holiday wine lists. Why? Well, it's so affordable you almost can’t not buy it - but it's also from a sixth-generation family winery in the south of France, is sustainably certified by France’s Terra Vitis, and it's gotten rave reviews from none other than famed wine writer Jancis Robinson herself! In her words: “This is rather gorgeous. It curves, light as a feather, round the tongue and purrs like a cat. Crisp green apples, candied lemon peel and a dab of sherbet sparkle bright as crystal over a base of sugared almonds.”

Pair with: Chevre or Gouda for two totally different but equally delicious pairings. Apples are a slam dunk with Blanquette. Pair with a fresh Cosmic Crisp apple salsa or caramel apple cream cheese spread

Anima Mundi Cami dels Xops Method Ancestral

Here we have a passion project from Spanish Catalonia made in a very hands-off style (as opposed to the extremely hands-on approach of Champagne). A Pet-Nat that is a 50-50 blend of native Macabeo and Xarel-lo grapes made in the Method Ancestral from organic, biodynamic vineyards. Hands-off in the vineyard, hands-off in the cellar, hands-off in the bottle; this special wine is an expression of the very specific area in which it is made with minimal intervention by the winemaker. Aromas of fresh baked bread, white fruits & grilled lemons. On the palate it is fresh, pleasant and addictive. A fruity wine, with a light creaminess and an acidity that lasts until the end. 

Pair with: Shellfish like Jumbo Prawn Cocktail or oysters on the half shell. Barbecue chicken thighs or spicy pork eggrolls.

Weibel Family Winery Almond Demi-Sec

Almond demi-sec sparkling with blue cheese, candied pecans and walnut biscuits

How about something fun and flirty from this side of the Atlantic? A beautiful soft golden color that is accentuated by itty bitty bubbles. A lovely nose of marzipan and vanilla wafers are followed by hints of toasted almonds. Slightly fruity, with a nice, natural tangy finish, the almond notes are prevalent on the palate but perfectly harmonized with the fruit. If you love amaretto this is the wine for you! This is by no means Champagne - not in any way really other than the bubbles - BUT, its a delightful wine to share at fun gatherings, its pairs well with most desserts or appetizers and its very affordable - so you won’t feel too bad if your team wins the Championship and you feel to need to celebrate by popping a cork and letting it fly!

Pair with: Brennan’s Blue Ribbon Bleu, Nutcrack Firecracker chili-spiced candied pecans, Effie's Walnut biscuits