Tradition dictates that you must have a glass of bubbly in your hand when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. However, that bubbly doesn’t necessarily have to be true champagne. Instead, you can be a friend to your budget and find some affordable options that will still taste good. We’ll start with a brief primer on champagne, then I’ll review some of my favorite alternatives to the French brands.

What Is Champagne?
Champagne is sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France. By law, only sparkling wine from this region may be called Champagne. However, sparkling wines are produced using the “Champagne-method” in regions all over the world, and many can be just as delicate and satisfying as true Champagne.

Alternatives to consider are Prosecco (Italian, sweeter than most Champagnes), Asti (Italian, also sweet), Cava (Spanish), and sparkling white from the U.S. Some U.S. producer even hire French Champagne experts to blend U.S. sparkling wines to the same exacting specifications used in France.

Types of Champagne and Champagne Terms
When you’re standing in the Champagne aisle at the grocery store, you’ll be faced with a dizzying array of options. What does it all mean?

Blanc de Blancs is made from white Chardonnay grapes. It’s a lighter, sweeter wine.
Blanc de Noirs
is made from a blend of red grapes. It’s more golden in color and has a fuller taste.
Rose
is pink Champagne, and is typically very sweet.
Dry
means sweet, Brut means less sweet. Doux means very, very, very sweet. Brut Natural is the least sweet. Most people buy Brut.
Vintage
means all of the grapes were harvested in the same year.
Non-vintage
means the grapes could be from several harvests.

Affordable Champagne Options
When you’re shopping for a bottle to take to the New Year’s Eve party, you might be tempted to spring for the cheapest version. Don’t do it. Spend at least $6 to get a decent bottle. Avoid Cook’s and Tott’s, but you can find many choices for less than $10. If you want to splurge, you can spend up to $20. Anything beyond that and I think I’d save that bottle for a small celebration with my loved ones, not a midnight sip when no one will really notice the superb flavor of the pricey stuff.

I’ve tried all of these and enjoyed them:
Barefoot Bubbly Brut – $7-8 for a California sparkling wine
Domaine Ste. Michelle – $7-9 for award-winning sparkling wine from Washington state
Freixenet – $8-10 for Spanish Cava
Korbel – $9 and up for a California sparkling wine
Coppola Sofia Blanc de Blancs – $12-13 for a 4-pack of 187 ml cans
Mumm – $12 and up for sparkling wine from Napa
Chandon – $13 and up for sparkling wine from Napa
Roederer – $20 and up. This is a French house that also produces sparkling wines in California, Portugal, and other regions.

If money’s no object, spring for the Dom Perignon. For the rest of us, the above options are a good way to enjoy the flavor of Champagne style sparkling wine without the price of true Champagne. Save even more with these tips for a frugal New Year’s Eve. Happy New Year!

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