When many people think of sparkling wine, Champagne is the first thing that comes to mind. But Champagne, unfortunately, can set you back quite a bit of money. If you’re trying to save cash but still want to sip on a sparkler, though, there are plenty of other options out there to explore. Cava, which is made in the same style as Champagne, hails from Spain, not France, and the price point is generally a lot more approachable. The process to make Italian Prosecco isn’t quite so finicky, but it still results in delicious bubbles. And if you’re looking for something fun and different, Lambrusco is a fantastic place to start.
Whether you’re throwing a party or just want to open a casual bottle of Tuesday-night bubbles, the following selections will get the job done without blowing the entire month’s drinks budget.
If you already know you like Champagne, there’s a good chance you’ll appreciate a good Cava as well. One of my favorite budget bottles is Los Dos Cava Brut. On the nose, it’s light, bright and fruity, and once you take a sip, you’ll appreciate notes of pear and green apple in addition to a slight bread component. It’s unfussy but not unsophisticated. And whether you’re eating seafood or a salad, it’ll pair perfectly with dinner.
Personally, I don’t care much about wine awards or rankings because I’m ruthlessly opinionated and know what I like. But this wine did win the Director’s Award for Best Cava at the San Diego International Wine Challenge, so if you give it a try and don’t like it, there’s someone else to blame besides me.
If you’re looking for a light, refreshing Prosecco that you can enjoy with both dessert and the main course, look no further than La Vostra Prosecco. This inexpensive pick is going to give you a lot of bang for your buck, which makes it ideal for casual weeknight drinking. Have nothing to celebrate? No worries! Prosecco doesn’t have quite the same reputation as a party drink as does Champagne, so it’s appropriate for popping open on a night when you’re behind on your work, haven’t showered and only want to eat microwave popcorn for dinner (speaking from experience).
Light-bodied, acidic and surprisingly smooth, it’s not totally dry but definitely not sweet. Because of its affordability, it’s just as good on its own as it is in a mimosa or an Aperol Spritz.
Popping open some bubbly is a great way to make a bad day better, but if you want it to be even more exciting, make sure those bubbles are pink. For all the rosé lovers out there, Segura Viudas Brut Rosé is a casual, affordable Cava that just feels festive. This is the kind of bottle we’d want to open pool-side, sipping between bites of fresh cherries and strawberries. It’s not overly complicated, and it’s super fruit-forward, which means it’s likely to be a hit even amongst those who aren’t extra-adventurous sippers. A hint of yeastiness balances out that fruitiness nicely so it’s not too overwhelming.
Throwing a party just got easier with Tarantas Sparkling White. I love this ultra-approachable wine largely because of its price point—it’s a great deal if you don’t want to sacrifice quality but still aren’t looking to spend big bucks on a nice bottle. This super drinkable sparkler features notes you would expect from a young, fresh wine: pear, green apple and peach. It has a hint of minerality to it as well, which keeps things interesting.
I will say that this wine is quite simple, so if you’re throwing a party for people who are into wine, it could potentially fall flat. That’s why, when I’m with my wine friends, this is the kind of bottle I would bring out when everyone is already feeling a little toasty.
One of the biggest Cava producers in the world, Freixenet, doesn’t fail to impress with its Cordon Negro Brut. This one feels slightly fancy, even though its low price point suggests otherwise. What I love about this wine is its creamy, toasty flavor. It’s less fruity than it is yeasty, which I hadn’t originally expected when I popped open the bottle.
This wine is actually the number one imported sparkling wine in the world, which indicates that it appeals to a wide variety of palates. This is a great bottle to open if you’re feeding people and want a nice accompaniment to dinner.
There are plenty of affordable sparkling wines on the market, but a lot of them are relatively similar to one another. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re looking for something that’s a little more out of the ordinary, look no further than Cleto Chiarli Vecchia Modena Premium Lambrusco di Sobara. Lambrusco is a sparkling red wine, often light-bodied and chuggable, that offers an exciting alternative to whites and rosés.
While some Lambruscos are on the sweeter side, this one is quite dry and offers just the right zippy acidity you’re looking for on a hot summer night. Red fruit flavors dominate the palate but give way to a gentle creaminess that makes the finish feel just slightly more luxurious. This is the wine I’m bringing to every party this season.
Samantha Maxwell is a food and wine writer based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter.