Popping open a bottle of celebratory bubbly for the holidays or the start of the New Year doesn't have to be an extravagance.
While a top-notch bottle of Champagne can cost upwards of $100 (and often, closer to $200), experts say it's relatively easy for shoppers to get a great value for far less. "There are those who come in are looking for the big names and there are those looking for the best damn bottle you can buy for the money," said Tom Geniesse, owner of Bottlerocket, a wine and spirits shop with locations in New York City and Westport, Conn. "Those are two different recommendations."
The first question to consider: Do you really want Champagne? Or will another kind of sparkling wine do? That's a common confusion, said Tyson Stelzer, author of "The Champagne Guide 2014-2015." All Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne, which is produced exclusively in that same-named region of France. "For the most part, Champagne commands a higher price," he said.
But shoppers can find great values in sparkling wines produced using the Champagne method elsewhere in France, such as Crémant de Bourgogne (from Burgundy) and Crémant d'Alsace (from Alsace), said Sam Doyle, sommelier at Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen in Morristown, N.J. Bottles can often be had for under $20 a bottle. "Even in California, there are places making really great sparkling wines," he said. For example, there's Roederer Estate, a subsidiary of French Champagne house Louis Roederer. Distributor BevMo! has Roederer Estate's nonvintage brut for $27.99 a bottle.
"Cavas from Spain can be insanely inexpensive, given their quality," said Geniesse. "They really do a great job for the price point." His pick: Cristalino, which costs just $9.