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There’s nothing like a glass of bubbly to celebrate a special occasion (or, just a Friday night). But the good stuff can add up – and with a new wave of champagne alternatives hitting the UK market, there’s never been a better time to experiment with something new. Here’s the lowdown on five of our favourites – and the sun-soaked destinations they hail from.
Originating from Catalonia, Cava is Spain’s equivalent of Champagne. This sparkling wine is a blend of three main varieties of grape – Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel-lo – although other types like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are also allowed. Cava can either be white or rosé and is typically characterised by a robust, balanced and almost savoury flavour, meaning it can taste a lot like vintage champagne. Factor in that the price tag often comes in at under £10, and this is a great Champagne alternative.
The vast majority of all Cava is produced in the Penedès region of Catalonia, although small amounts do come from other destinations around Spain. Penedès is an area soaked in wine-making history – the first vines were said to have grown here as far back as 7th century BC. The peaceful landscape, with its lush, rolling hills and rich soil, provides the optimum environment for Cava grapes.
Prosecco is produced in the Veneto region of Italy, north of Venice, and is made using the Glera variety of grape. It’s widely known as a champagne alternative, thanks to its price tag – you can get a good entry level Prosecco at most supermarkets for between £7-£10. Generally, it’s sweeter than both Champagne and Cava, with tasting notes of green apple, melon and honeysuckle.
Due to this sweetness, Prosecco has been brushed off as inferior in the past. However, in recent years, it's becoming altogether more refined, gaining both a DOC and DOCG in Veneto and Friuli – denominations which signify a wine's quality.
So how is prosecco so affordable? It’s produced using something called the “tank method”, which involves ageing the wine in large quantities in a vat. The older, “traditional method” is altogether more complicated and time-intensive, which is what makes Champagne much more expensive.
If you’re looking for something as close to the real thing as you can get, try a bottle of Crémant. Although it uses the same traditional production technique as Champagne, it cannot be classified as such because it comes from outside that specific region. Currently, Crémant is made in eight different places in and around France, including Luxembourg and the Loire, and the main tasting notes vary from region to region. You can, however, expect a fresh, crisp and full-bodied flavour.
The rules and regulations around the production of Crémant are almost as strict as those around Champagne – but not quite. As a result, you can get a high-quality bottle for under £20. That's a reason for a cheers if we ever heard one.
We’re heading back to Italy now, to find out a bit more about Metodo Classico, known as the Champagne of Italian sparkling wines. As with Crémant, it’s produced using very similar techniques to Champagne, and utilises some of the same grapes – and as a result, produces a very similar taste.
The differences between Metodo Classico and Champagne are subtle – the climate is typically warmer in Italy than in the Champagne region, and so these sparkling wines can be a little richer and more full-bodied. The main tasting notes you can expect include citrus, cream and a certain nuttiness.
Metodo Classico is produced in a number of regions around Italy, including the idyllic Trentino. Trentino is bordered by the mighty Dolomites and woven with peaceful orchards and vineyards which create a vast patchwork across the countryside.
Last, but by no means least, the sparkling wines produced on our very own soil. We may be late to the party, but English sparkling wine is quickly garnering a reputation – did you know that two-thirds of all wine produced in the UK is sparkling? Most are also made using some of the same grapes as Champagne – such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir - and in the south of the country, the chalky soil and (mostly) reliable climate make the wine-growing conditions not too dissimilar to France.
With British sparkling wine, you can expect a toasty biscuit flavour, balanced by a little citrusy acidity that makes it much drier than Prosecco. The main growing regions are East Anglia – which is one of the driest places in the UK – and Kent.
If all this talk of sparkling wine has got your taste-buds tingling, join us as we visit some of the world’s best wine-producing countries on our Mediterranean cruises.
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