If you're popping a bottle to celebrate New Year's Eve this weekend, consider its intended purpose. Are you having a party, and pouring for 20? Are you mixing the bubbles with other alcohol to create a festive cocktail? Will the fizz stand alone as you sip it slowly, awaiting midnight?
A certain type of sparkling wine may be best for each of those different scenarios.
Champagne is often the default bubbly for celebrating, but recently, more affordable varieties like cava and prosecco have become popular.
Jason Grunwald, manager of the Total Wine & More store in St. Petersburg, said he has noticed more customers asking for Champagne alternatives.
"I've been asked more about prosecco the last six to 12 months than in the past," he said. "Cava has always been more popular, but for the partygoers and the event throwers, now they're really leaning toward cava because you get high-quality stuff at a really good price."
We asked him to explain the difference between these two sparkling wines and Champagne — and when it's worth splurging on the good stuff.
The most ubiquitous sparkling wine gets its name from the region of France in which it is produced. Simply, if it's a sparkling wine and it's not produced in Champagne, it can't technically be called Champagne.
"There's quite a few Champagne houses producing good Champagne in France," Grunwald said. "Your Champagne selection is generally greater than your prosecco and cava options. And it's hard to find a bad bottle of Champagne."
Grunwald said Champagne has more toasty notes than other sparkling wines, with fig and almond flavors present in the high-quality varieties. A bottle will run you $25 to $300.
A lesser-known sparkling wine option related to Champagne is a Cremant, which is produced in different parts of France but in the same style as the wine produced in Champagne. It's often more affordable, with bottles typically starting around $20. (According to Grunwald, the highest-priced bottle of Cremant at Total Wine is about $40.)
"It can be similar to Champagne, and they range from light bodied to full bodied and most of them are dry," Grunwald said. "A popular or common fruit characteristic is strawberry and apple. We move a decent amount of Cremant because they're set right next to our Champagne, so you can see the affordability."
Grunwald suggests: Pertois Moriset Grand Cru Brut Champagne, $39.99
Luquet Cremant de Bourgogne, $19.99 (which he calls "one of the best ways in the entire store to spend $20")
Cava is a sparkling wine that comes from Spain, the majority of which is produced in the Catalonia region. Bottles typically start at $10 or less, making it an ideal bubbly for a large crowd. Grunwald said the most expensive cava they currently sell at his store is $20.
"These are generally pretty light in style," he said. "Very versatile. You can do cava for mimosas or by itself. And I would say that customers purchasing something for parties or events, they buy cava more often than the others."
Cava is more floral, crisp and citrusy than Champagne, and not quite as acidic.
Grunwald suggests: Rondel Brut, $8.99
Italy's most popular sparkling wine is prosecco, an easy-sipping option that is often fruitier than Champagne. It's also lighter bodied and not quite as bubbly.
"You don't really have cases of prosecco leaving the building for parties," Grunwald said, "but prosecco can be pretty versatile. Some customers like to do mixed drink cocktails with it."
Like cava, prosecco is more affordable than Champagne, with bottles ranging up to about $30.
"They are cheaper because they are missing that prestige," Grunwald said. "The storied history isn't as detailed and lengthy as Champagne."
Light, medium or heavy bodied, prosecco is typically drier and on the slightly sweeter side.
Grunwald suggests: Santi Nello, $14.99