Is champagne the only bubbly worth drinking on New Year’s Eve?

We’ve been producing bubbles on special occasions since the 16th century (Getty/iStock)

Nothing says “Happy New Year” like popping a bottle of champagne, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick with champagne.

From its richer, creamier and much more affordable cousin Cremant to lesser-known European rivals such as Franciacorta in Italy, Corpinnat in Spain or Geman Sekt – or even outsiders from England’s own wine garden – there are plenty of wines alternative sparkling wines from the continent and beyond. provide just as much pop and joy.

We’ve rounded up a few for our new Uncorked series, in which we take your burning wine questions straight to our gurus at the Independent Wine Club. No question is too big or too small. Submit your questions and we’ll pop the cork on your biggest grape problems.

Q. Is champagne the only bubbly worth drinking on New Years?

A. Absolutely not! Champagne has long been everyone’s favorite drink, but there are a variety of tantalizing sparkling wines from elsewhere to fill your flutes and goblets with this New Year’s Eve. Spain, England, Germany and other parts of France (who could forget the crémant?!) all have beautiful bubbles to explore, so as iconic as they are, let’s leave the prestige cuvée champagnes aside for a moment and shop around for some of the best alternatives on the continent.

Brits love Prosecco, and for good reason: a really good bottle of this popular bubbly, an increasing number of which come from the hills of the Veneto region, is an affordable, cocktail-friendly treat. But, have you ever tried its more illustrious adult cousin from neighboring Lombardy, Franciacorta? A personal favourite, Franciacorta was the first Italian sparkler to achieve DOCG status – the highest level of Italian classification – and it’s easy to see why. Like the best bubbles, this one is made with a second fermentation in the bottle, and a long maturation in the cellar. Styles vary but all are dry, with a fine bead (little bubbles), are very edible and produced on a surprisingly artisanal scale (Möet et Chandon claim more annual production than the whole of Franciacorta!). This is a criminally underrated wine well worth seeking out…

Spain’s most famous fizz is Cava, which in some instances can be very good, although crawling behind to steal its crown is the lesser-known but equally delicious Corpinnat. Spanish vineyards are generally warmer and this makes the bubbles richer, riper and more immediately hedonic. Selection is key here, but many across Spain and beyond would say there’s no better way to usher in the new year than with a decadent cracker loaded with savory jamon paired with a top sparkling spanish!

Further north and for the adventurers, Germany and surrounding countries make some really impressive Sekt, often from Riesling, which makes a real change and also tends to be very reasonably priced, while you can find examples in the UK – but definitely worth researching. Equally affordable is the range of crémants from across France – with products from conscientious producers from as far away as Alsace, Limoux and the Jura all worth sampling.

Finally, looking closer at home, English wine, one of the (few) beneficiaries of climate change, is better than ever and the list of world-class wineries in Sussex, Kent, Hampshire and Devon s lengthens each year, producing sparkling wines that can rival Grande Marque Champagnes for depth and intensity while retaining their distinctive identities. I always love slipping them into blind tastings in the UK and seeing seasoned palates rate the local entrant just as well as famous cuvées from across the Channel. I’m sure I’ll see 2022 with fabulous English fizz, and I highly recommend you do the same.

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