The Best Bubbly Out There (That You Can Actually Afford)

champ-emPhotographed by Ben Rayner.
We love fancy Champagne for special occasions. But, smaller milestones often call for a more affordable bottle. Fried chicken and deviled eggs are no less deserving of sparkling wine than caviar and oysters.
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You probably already know that cheap doesn't always mean bad. So, we did the research and found three inexpensive bubblies to suit anything from a night on the town to a first-anniversary celebration. We promise all are spectacular deals for the quality you're getting.
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1. Inexpensive
Castello di Luzzano “Magót” Pinot Nero Frizzante, Oltrepò Pavese DOC, 2011, Italy, 750 ml, $15 at Thirst Wine Merchants.
Prosecco and Cava are a penny pincher's favorite alternatives to Champagne. But, virtually any wine can be made to fizz, and most wine-making regions have a fizzy version all their own.
I picked up this Magót, made from the Pinot Nero grape in central Italy, at my local wine shop.
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Lorena Ascencios, the wine buyer at Astor Wines & Spirits, suggests developing a relationship with a retail shop that you like and trust. “It’s the old school method,” said Ascencios, “but there is nothing on a label that guarantees a wine is good.”
Here’s to that, and to this crisp $15 bottle of bubbly.
Thirst Wine Merchants, 187 Dekalb Avenue (at Carlton Avenue); 718-596-7643.
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2. Won't Break The Bank
Recaredo Gran Reserva Brut Nature Cava, 2007, Spain, 750 ml, $31.99 at MisterWrightFineWines.com
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While Champagne has done an impressive job of standardizing and branding its sparkling wine, restrictions on the types of grapes used — Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, and Pinot Meunier — have created a wine that's as consistent as it is predictable. As a result, there are many more expressions of Cava than Champagne.
“Cava has versatility and style,” said Gonzalo Gout, the general manager of Cosme. “I can try a new Cava and taste a new style of wine."
That, plus a reasonable price tag, makes Cava an easy sell.
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3. The Splurge
Vilmart “Grand Cellier” 1er Cru, Brut - NV, France, 750 ml, $69.97 at AstorWines.com
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Vilmart & Cie is a tiny production from the Champagne region of France. But, unlike bigger vineyards, this biodynamic winemaker grows its own grapes and bottles its own wine.
“When people want to make an impression, I suggest Vilmart,” says Lorena Ascencios. “I’m always championing the smaller producer because they, quite frankly, make a more interesting product. It's a splurge without...spending hundreds of dollars.”
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