Champagne in any form is an elegant drink, especially when served in a tall flute or a wide coupe. But do you have to spend a fortune to acquire it? Absolutely not! And I must confess: I prefer cheap champagne and sparkling wine to their more expensive counterparts when I have something to celebrate.
The only differences I can tell between inexpensive libations and bottles that cost many dollars are: a) cheap champagne and sparkling wine are generally sweeter than the expensive variety, and b) bubbles in cheap champagne tend to be bigger and more bubbly.
Whether you drink chilled champagne straight or mixed in a cocktail such as a brunch-time mimosa or a kir royale in the evening, I recommend the following cheap but tasty ones that can stylishly elevate any ingredient and every event.
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Champagne doesn't have to be expensive to be delicious. Ballatore Gran Spumante won a Double Gold Medal at the 2005 California State Fair Wine Competition to prove it and has subsequently picked up multiple other awards. This sweet and super-cheap sparkling wine is made from Muscat grapes grown around Asti, a town in Italy.
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Francis Ford Coppola Sofia Blanc de Blancs
He makes great movies, why not great wine? The Godfather director, Coppola has released this fruity blend of pinot blanc, muscat, and riesling grapes and added champagne-like sparkle. The romantic in us appreciates that it comes wrapped in peony-pink cellophane. For the complete experience, sip a Coppola wine at one of his resorts, such as ten-casits La Lancha in the Guatemalan rainforest.
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Freixenet Carta Nevada Brut
Less sweet than the Ballatore Gran Spumante, Freixenet Carta Nevada Brut is a varietal cheap champagne that comes from Spain and combines macebeo, xarel-lo, and parellada grapes. It is produced by the méthode champenoise method, which requires double fermentation.
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Cheap but classy, crisp and dry, Cristalino is fast becoming the champagne choice of budget-conscious brides and party-givers.
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Mumm Cuvee Napa Brut PrestigeIf you prefer a cheap champagne from California, you can't do much better than the award-winning Mumm Cuvee Napa Brut Prestige, which is extremely bubbly.
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Wilson Creek Peach Bellini
You don't need to travel all the way to Venice to savor the flavor of a Bellini. Purists only serve in during months when peaches are in season, combining their nectar with champagne. This naturally fermented beverage is pre-flavored with with pure almond and peach flavor added. It's a popular and affordable (okay, cheap) choice to serve at weddings.
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Dom Ste Michelle Blanc de BlancA cheap champagne with a lot of personality, Dom Ste Michelle Blanc de Blanc from Washington state was deemed a best buy by Wine Spectator magazine. Discriminating palates will detect pear and spice flavors.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Mionetto ProseccoProsecco is Italy's version of champagne, yet many sophisticates enjoy it in spite of, or because of, its cheap price. Mionetto is the country's largest producer of prosecco, and produces several different varieties, all of them cheap at under $20.
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La Marca DOC Veneto Prosecco
Twenty bucks gets you a bottle of this Italian bubbly. The taste is described as "fresh and clean, with ripe citrus, lemon, green apple, and touches of grapefruit, minerals, and some toast."
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Sutter Home Fre Sparkling Alcohol-Free BeverageIt's not champagne, it's not wine, but it does sparkle and it is cheap: If you need a non-alcoholic alternative to celebrate with, Sutter Home Fre Sparkling gets high marks for its pleasing taste and dry finish.
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Perrier Jouet Brut Flower BottleLast, but certainly not least -- and absolutely not cheap -- Perrier Jouet Brut in the Flower Bottle is the champagne to bring out when you want to romance and impress someone. The gorgeous bottle is an Art-Deco design that may become a keepsake of a memorable evening and is often sold in a gift box with commemorative champagne glasses. Drink up!