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Queen of sparkle: Prosecco versus Cava or how about a Crémant?

Is there life beyond Prosecco? The short answer is yes and please don’t worry about the apocalyptic nature of the headline – they haven’t stopped making it!

I’ve hosted a lot of virtual tastings recently and am quite often asked for alternatives to Prosecco. Could the tide be turning on the nation’s favourite fizz? I doubt it somehow.

Tastings over Zoom, at home with a group of friends, are certainly a more relaxed affair than being at a ‘physical event’ and interestingly, people aren’t as reticent about asking questions. I like to think of myself as a grape-themed agony aunt.

So, in true Claire Rayner style (which ages me somewhat), I’m giving you suggestions on alternatives to this famous Italian sparkler.

Before that, however, the thing you need to know is that ‘Extra Dry’ on the label, means nothing of the sort. Generally, it will contain around 12-17 grams per litre of sugar, as opposed to between 0-12 g/l for ‘Brut’. It can be confusing but may account for why weaning yourself off the stuff is a bit harder than you think. Maybe you need to lie down at this point.

The much-overlooked Cava is usually Brut (very dry in style), with some Brut Nature (pretty much no sugar added at all). Great as an aperitif, with nibbles or even fish and chips, it surprises a lot of people to know that Cava is made in exactly the same way as Champagne but isn’t aged for quite so long in the bottle (a minimum of 9 months, rather than 15 months for Champagne).

Perfectly lovely and a bargain to boot is the Co-op Cava Brut at only £6.50.

If it is ‘just’ the price tag of Champagne which puts you off buying it, but you like the style and flavour, then look out for Crémant. This is made exclusively in specific regions of France, again using the meticulous ‘traditional Champagne method’, involving a second fermentation in the bottle. Most supermarkets will stock one, like this from the M&S classics range at £10.

If you are looking for something with a bit more fruit, then a New World sparkling wine would be a good place to start. This delightful sparkling rosé from the Bird in Hand winery in South Australia (check out our competition to WIN TWO BOTTLES here), also looks great in the glass!

It is made using a similar way to Prosecco in that the second fermentation takes place in a tank – called the Charmat method. This means little or no toasty or bready aromas and flavours in the wine and it’s fresh, fruity and ready to drink (à la Prosecco). The fruitiness should make up for the lack of sugar.

Available at a number of stores including Booths and Waitrose.

I hope that answers the question and that you are feeling better already? You can get up off the couch now – my invoice is in the post.

Main pic: @englishmum

Janet Harrison
Janet Harrison runs Cracking Wine, providing fun and informal wine tasting events in the North of England. She is also founder of the People's Choice Wine Awards.

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