New Year’s Eve and champagne go together like peanut butter and jelly. According to Imbibe, a magazine dedicated to drinks, champagne has been part of New Year’s Eve traditions since the days of Julius Caesar in ancient Rome. “Caesar added two months to an admittedly sloppy pagan calendar, and decreed that Roman consuls begin their terms at the start of newly created January,” Imbibe reports. Following that, “celebrating the arrival of this new year took root across Europe, then was brought by European settlers to the Americas. By 1800 it was common to remain awake until midnight.” Accounts from 1852 also referenced champagne consumption on the occasion of New Year’s Eve. The tradition only kept growing in popularity, and continues to this day.
You’ve probably noticed champagne can be expensive. That’s because it’s more difficult to come by than just any sparkling wine — true champagne is required to hail from the Champagne region of Northern France. While “champagne” is often used as a generic term for sparkling wine, it’s actually made under specific conditions that contribute to the high cost. But what if you want to partake in a festive bottle of bubbly without paying a premium? We’ve got a solution: Try one of these other varieties of sparkling wine, all of which are tasty, professionally recommended, and best of all, $25 or less (though keep in mind that prices may vary depending on your location).
The Classic Pick: Prosecco
Prosecco is the most common and well-known champagne substitute. This sparkling Italian white wine tastes crisp and dry on its own and also makes an ideal mixer for any cocktails that need a touch of carbonated goodness; plus, it’s easy to find at any liquor store. According to Forbes, Prosecco is the world’s most popular sparkling wine, selling more bottles than French champagne and Spanish Cava combined. The experts at Liquor.com have proclaimed Botter Per Ora Prosecco “Best for Parties” due to its “tart and tasty” flavor and “food-friendly nature.” This wine, which pairs well with sushi or cheese, typically sells for around $13.
The Underrated Pick: Lambrusco
Do you prefer red? Sparkling red wine doesn’t typically get the love that champagne (a type of sparkling white) does — but it should. Lambrusco is an Italian variety of sparkling red that’s fruity and fairly low in alcohol. “Do not let its bad reputation fool you,” The New York Times cautions. “Good Lambrusco is joyous and delicious, and it goes wonderfully with salumi, pork dishes, rich pastas, and pizzas.” Lambrusco’s less-than-stellar reputation goes back to the ’80s, when overly sweet mass-market varieties reigned supreme. Now, The NY Times recommends a Lambrusco around the $20 mark, Grasparossa di Castelvetro Pruno Nero from the purveyor Cleto Chiarli.
The Playful Pick: Sparkling Rosé
What’s even more fun than a glass of refreshing rosé? How about a fizzy take on the beloved pink vino variety! “There’s perhaps no beverage that evokes whimsy, celebration, and joy as much as sparkling rosé,” says wine site VinePair.com — and who wouldn’t want to channel that spirit when welcoming the new year? Vine Pair suggests the sparkling rose from Le Contesse, which sells for $15 on average. This Venetian wine is “structured and lively with an undeniable balance” — plus, because it has a dry acidity, Wine Enthusiast says sparkling rosés like this one will balance out greasy, fried, or spicy dishes. So, if you’re planning to indulge in a big meal this New Year’s, sparkling rosé might make an ideal pairing.
The Sweet Pick: Sparkling Moscato
Moscato is a sparkling white wine that’s a bit sweeter and lower in alcohol than prosecco, and TheSpruceEats.com suggests pairing it with spicy or salty dishes. This wine has floral and citrus notes (it can easily be served as a dessert wine too, if you’re so inclined) and the fact that its alcohol by volume is just 5.5 percent means you can indulge without feeling too bad the next morning. Sant’Orsola Moscato D’Asti costs somewhere in the $11 to $13 range, and comes highly recommended by Liquor.com.
The Economical Pick: Cava
Cava is basically the Spanish version of prosecco, although the flavor of this particular sparkling wine is actually closer in taste to champagne than prosecco. A popular, widely available cava to try is Jaume Serra Cristalino. Selling for around $10, the price truly can’t be beat. WineFolly.com reports the reason this sparkling wine is so cheap has to do with the fact that the process for producing, storing, and bottling it is fully mechanized. This one may not be artisanal, but it’s a reliable pick that beautifully complements seafood, and even has a seal of approval from a wine authority: Wine & Spirits magazine calls it “a perennial favorite” that’s “unusually affordable.” So go ahead and buy more than one bottle.
While champagne may be the default pick when it comes to sparkling wines on New Year’s Eve, there are so many more fairly-priced options to explore. Whether you prefer whites or reds, sweet or crisp, low alcohol volume or high, there’s a sparkling wine out there for you — and any one of these would make a fabulous new year’s toast.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Woman’s World.
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