February, the month of romance and love, is in full swing. Valentine’s Day, chocolate and Champagne have been featured everywhere this month.

In the world of wine however, Champagne is only one type of sparkling wine. It’s probably the best known but definitely not the only one. But great Champagne is most often less than affordable. There are however, many affordable options from all around the world that will certainly leave your pocket feeling less strained but still are of good quality!

Much of the bubbly from outside of Champagne is produced using the same methods and often with the same grape varietals.

Here are some tips to help you navigate the world of bubbles.

Tip 1: French Champagne-style Alternatives

Champagne is not the only region of France producing great bubbly. France has a total of 23 other wine regions producing fabulous sparkling wines such as Crémant d'Alsace, Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant de Bourgogne, Anjou mousseux AOC and Blanquette de Limoux AOC.

Tip 2: International Champagne-style Alternatives

Keep your eyes open for international alternatives. Here is a list of names of non-French wines made using the same traditional methods used to create Champagne around the world:

- South Africa: Methode Cap Classique

- Spain: Cava or Espumoso

- Portugal and Argentina: Espumante

- Italy: Metodo Classico

- Germany and Austria: Sekt

- USA, Australia, etc: Traditional Method or Méthode Champenoise

There are other sparkling wines such as Prosecco, but this is not made using the same method as Champagne.

Tip 3: Serve your bubbly at the right temperature

All sparkling wines should be served between 6 and 8°C. Anything warmer could cause the wine to lose flavour and bubbles too quickly.

Tip 4: How to open the bottle correctly

To avoid unnecessary wastage or an F1-style shower, opening the bottle of bubbly correctly is essential. Whilst some, like Takuan von Arnim, Cellar Master at Haute Cabriere are masters in the art of sabrage (opening the bottle using a sabre!), most of us need to use more simple methods to extract a cork!

A photo of Takuan von Arnim, Cellar Master at Haute Cabriere doing sabotage

To avoid injury to yourself and your guests, it is necessary to control the release of the cork. There are two ways to do this. The first involves grasping the cork firmly and twisting the bottle slowly. The cork travel upwards as the bottle twists, but you still retain a good deal of control when the cork separates from the bottle. The second method involves loosening the wire cap but not removing it entirely. This aids in keeping additional control.

Both methods, as long as they are done slowly and with control, will ensure that bubbles are preserved.

Tip 5: Pouring and serving sparkling wines to preserve bubbles

In order to maintain effervescence, bubbly should be served in a long flute. It is also very importance to trickle the wine down the side of the glass while tilting at an angle. This ensures more carbon dioxide remains in the wine, enhancing the taste and mouth-feel of the wine.

Tip 6: Pairing bubbly with food

The best thing about bubbly is that it is so very versatile. It is no longer primarily a celebratory drink. It can be enjoyed with many different meals. Some ideas include:

- Brie and other creamy cheeses

- Salami and prosciutto

- Seafood such as shellfish, smoked salmon, caviar and calamari.

- Duck or beef

- Fruit-based desserts such as tarts and crepes

- Buttered popcorn

- Pizza

Hard To Find Wines stocks a wide range of bubbly. Take a look at our website and make a selection for your next celebration!

Next week we will take a look at Le Lude, an exquisite Methode Cap Classique producer from Franschhoek in South Africa.