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Champagne alternatives for the festive season

Looking for sparkling wine that’s interesting and delicious but doesn’t carry the price tag of Champagne? We’ve put together a list of effervescent alternatives to crack open over the festive season, tasted by the Decanter team over the last few months.

If you’re open to discovery, and particularly if you’re on a budget, it’s important to know that there is a multitude of sparkling wines to try beyond Champagne’s borders.

Champagne’s long ageing requirements and reputation push up its price tag, but other traditional method sparkling wines can provide commendable levels of complexity for a bit less money.

Some use the same grape varieties as Champagne and offer similar flavour profiles, while others use different grapes and have their own delicious character.

The list below highlights traditional method sparklings from around the world worth seeking out, available in supermarkets and independent retailers across the UK.

Scroll down to see 30 great Champagne alternatives for Christmas

For the dedicated Champagne fan:

Franciacorta has long been one of the best-kept secrets in the sparkling wine world. These high energy, precise and complex traditional method wines should not be overlooked. You can now even find examples in UK supermarkets. Tesco has Castel Faglia’s Brut NV for just £15.50 a bottle.

Crémant de Bourgogne, as with all Crémants, is a traditional method sparkler and one we’ve been seeing more and more of in UK retailers and supermarkets.

Cava is a great place to find good value bubbles. Although production (and supermarket shelves) is dominated by high-output big brands, there are laudable examples to try if you know where to look.

English Sparkling needs no introduction now, its good reputation is widely accepted. Though the elevated price point has often been one of its criticisms, we are beginning to see excellent bottles available for a lot less. Take for example the Brut NV made for Booths supermarket by Ridgeview. The Westwell Pelegrim Brut NV is also particularly excellent and on an even keel with many top Champagnes.

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For the adventurous francophile:

Crémant du Jura and Crémant de Savoie are both delicate sparkling wines from France’s eastern border and are fairly recent appellations. Crémant du Jura is predominantly Chardonnay with Jura grapes Trousseau, Savagnin and Poulsard playing minor roles. While crémant de Savoie must be made mostly from local Savoie grapes Jacquère and Altesse, with the addition of Aligoté, Chardonnay, Mondeuse Blanche, Mondeuse Noire, Pinot Noir or Gamay.

Vouvray and Montlouis are both made using Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley. Sitting opposite each other on either bank of the Loire river, both appellations make the full range of sparkling, still and sweet wines. Chenin Blanc imparts its characteristic apple, lemon and honey notes and some of the sparklings are long-lees aged, giving good depth and complexity.

For the curious:

The New World doesn’t always spring to mind as somewhere that offers sparkling wine alternatives to Champagne, but there are certainly traditional method wines with varying levels of finesse and intrigue. From Australia, the Vasse Felix Idée Fixe Blanc de Blancs from Margaret River is enjoyable and currently on offer down from £36 to £25.50 at Harvey Nichols. Lidl’s Duck Point Blanc de Blancs from Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand is another example, and at under £10 is a refreshing change from Prosecco or Cava. South American sparkling is having a bit of a moment too, as Amanda Barne’s recent Expert’s Choice indicates. Traditional method sparklers from Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay performed exceptionally well and can be found in a number of retailers in the UK.

Hungarian sparkling might not be on your radar yet, but it’s gaining ground in export markets, including the UK. Hungary’s star Furmint grape takes on the rich, toasty notes from prolonged lees ageing very well while maintaining its penetrating acidity. The Sauska Brut NV is made by previous cellarmaster at Rare Champagne, Régis Camus, and at under £20 is a real bargain.

Top Champagne alternatives for the festive season:

The wines below are ordered by score.

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