If you read my “What’s In My Fridge?” post, you’re in on one of my not-so-secret secrets: I’m crazy for champagne. I love the festive feeling it lends to any occasion, its fruity-toasty flavor and tongue-tingliness, and I especially love sharing the sipping experience with others, whether at a wedding, a birthday celebration, or simply toasting the end of a long week at home with a friend.
While true champagne is made with grapes grown in France’s Champagne region, the word has become a catchall for bubbly produced in other other parts of the world: cava from Spain, prosecco from Italy, and sparkling wines from the Napa Valley to New Zealand. What they all have in common besides their bubbles is that they are made from white grapes—pale green Chardonnay and purple skinned Pinot Noir grapes are the most common—and undergo a second fermentation process in the bottle, which produces that signature effervescence.
Even though, in theory, sparkling wines are merely grapes, yeast, and sugar, there is a process known as fining—the technical term for removing any lingering sediment from the wine—that sometimes introduces non-vegan elements. It’s not uncommon, for example, for winemakers to use gelatin, egg whites, or even fish byproducts in this process. But thankfully, more and more wineries are choosing to make their products more inclusive by using vegan-friendly fining agents, or sometimes, eliminating that step in the process altogether.
What constitutes a great sparkling wine/champagne/cava/prosecco really depends on one’s own palate (I love my bubbly on the sweet side), but the experts will tell you that teeny-tiny bubbles are one of the hallmarks of a well-produced vintage. Another quality indicator is a real cork and not one of those flimsy plastic ones!
You needn’t spend a fortune for a good wine, either, though it’s certainly possible to; the vegan Perrier-Jouët can cost upwards of $350 for a single bottle! Champagnes, because of their prestigious lineage, can command those higher price tags, but it’s possible to find a lovely bottle that’s perfect for a special occasion in the $40 price range. More budget-friendly but equally delicious cavas and proseccos can be procured at your local grocery store for a fraction of the price of champagne, and it’s worth experimenting to find the bubbles you like best.
April is my birthday month, and this year is a biggie, so I’ll definitely be ringing in my personal new year with a glass (or two) of champagne in hand. Like everything in life, bubbly is best enjoyed in moderation! Here are some of my favorite vegan versions to add sparkle to your next celebration.
Colleen’s Top Vegan Champagnes ...
Freixenet: This brand has been around for more than 100 years, and is widely available at supermarkets. At around $10 a bottle, the price can’t be beat.
Albet i Noya: Made with organic grapes, this smooth Spanish cava brims with fresh fruit flavors. So refreshing!
Campo Viejo: This is my go-to for mixing into mimosas. It has delightfully floral undertones, with just the right amount of tartness.
Duval-Leroy: A classic aperitif wine to prep your palate for a special meal. I love its toasty-almondy flavor.
Taittinger: They’ve been producing champagnes in France for almost 300 years, so you know they’ve mastered the technique! Any of their bottles are worth the splurge.
Nicolas Feuillatte: You’ll find this brand at grocery stores and corner markets across France, and now, it’s widely available in the US, too.
Brilla: Peaches, green apple, and loads of sparkle are the hallmarks of this prosecco. I love to serve it with hors d'oeuvres.
La Jara: I love the crisp, citrusy flavors, and slightly understated bubbles. And did I mention it’s organic?
Masottina: A glass of this prosecco takes me right back to my time in Italy, and that truly is amore!
Domaine Bousquet: This 100-perecent vegan wine from Argentina makes the most delightful sparkling wines that just happen to be organic, too.
Domaine Carneros: This winery in the Napa Valley doesn’t just make great bubbly; they’ve also won awards for their sustainability efforts.
LaRocca Vineyards: This family-run organic wine company makes sulfite-free sparkling wine, which means no headaches, even when you’ve overindulged!