Best prosecco and sparkling wines
Prosecco can be a delicious, great-value alternative to champagne, but it's not your only option.
To find out what's the best champagne alternative this year, our panel of wine experts tried out a mixture of sparkling wines for the December 2019 edition of Which? magazine.
Most of the sparkling wines we tested were supermarket exclusives, but there was also one popular brand name included. They ranged in price from £7.25 to £12 a bottle.
Best prosecco and sparkling wines
Aldi Angel and Four Masterstroke
£10 for 75cl
Update June 2020: Aldi has told us this wine is no longer available.
This English sparkling wine is battling against the other prosecco bottles in our table for a spot in your drinks cabinet. It's described as 'a bit of fun' with a zesty finish.
Asda Extra Special Selection Crémant de Loire Brut
£8 for 75cl
This sub-£10 prosecco from Asda could be a great option if you're hosting a party on a budget. It's supposedly 'crisp and bright' with lots of fruity flavours.
Co-op Irresistible Cava Brut
Co-op describes this Spanish fizz as 'refreshing and deliciously biscuity', and recommends serving it as an aperitif. But is it really 'irresistible'?
Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava
£11 for 75cl
Freixenet's iconic Cordon Negro is described as crisp, clean and well-balanced. That sounds like a tasty tipple, but do our experts recommend this bottle after trying it?
Iceland Maison de la Rougerie Crémant de Bordeaux
£8.75 for 75cl
Iceland's budget French fizz certainly looks the part, and grapes sourced from the Bordeaux region have a reputation for being some of the best in the world.
Lidl Crémant de Loire NV
From the Loire Valley in central France comes Lidl's own-brand fizz. It's one of the cheapest options we've tasted, so it might be on your radar if you want to keep costs low.
M&S Vintage Cava Brut 2015
£12 for 75cl
This cava is more expensive than others our experts tasted, so could be ideal if you're trying to impress friends and family this Christmas, but does it taste as good as it looks?
Morrisons The Best Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco
£10 for 75cl, vegetarian and vegan
Produced using grapes sourced from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene area, Morrisons describes this prosecco simply as 'superb'.
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Crémant de Loire
£11.50 for 75cl, vegetarian and vegan
Sainsbury's is confident that its sparkling wine, labelled 'rich on the palate with a zesty apple freshness', is a real treat for the taste buds.
Spar Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco
£10 for 75cl, vegetarian and vegan
Spar's £10 prosecco has impressed our panel in previous years with its 'pleasant balance' and 'savoury style'.
Tesco Finest Prosecco Brut
£8 for 75cl, vegetarian and vegan
Tesco claims this bargain Italian fizz is an 'elegant wine with a lingering finish', but did our expert tasting panel agree?
Waitrose & Partners Sparkling Pecorino NV
£9 for 75cl, vegetarian and vegan
Waitrose & Partners describes this as a 'deliciously elegant sparkling wine' that's ideal for parties or informal meals, with bursts of citrus blossom and fresh lemon.
Different sparkling wines explained
Champagne can only be made in a specified region of north-east France, and almost always from a blend of three grapes: pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier. The bubbles come from a second small alcoholic fermentation carried out inside the bottle. The CO2 formed can’t escape and so it dissolves into the wine – so when the bottle is opened, the wine sparkles.
Most champagne is dry and best served after a few hours in the fridge.
Cava, from Spain, is made in the same way as champagne, undergoing secondary fermentation in the bottle. It's usually made from three Catalan grapes: macabeo, xarel-lo and parellada, although some of the large cava producers have started to use chardonnay and pinot noir as well.
The grapes mostly come from near Barcelona, much further towards the sunny south than the Champagne region. They ripen more, so cava is lower in acidity than champagne (and often cheaper).
Prosecco, from Italy, is usually slightly sweet or ‘off-dry’, light and delicate, and characterised by citrus and apple notes.
Most people know that champagne is a protected appellation, but did you know that prosecco is too? Any other sparkling wines made from glera grapes (formerly called prosecco), but from outside the Italian designation of origin for prosecco, can’t use the word ‘prosecco’ on the label. Unlike many other fizzes, prosecco completes its secondary fermentation in a pressurised stainless-steel tank.
Generally, prosecco is similarly priced to cava and cheaper than champagne.
Franciacorta is made from grapes from Franciacorta in Lombardy. It's drier than prosecco, but fruitier and softer than champagne, and it has distinctive lemony notes.
Crémant is sparkling wine that's made in the same way as champagne (with secondary fermentation) but it can come from other regions in France. Crémants may be made with a variety of grape varieties, other than the traditional champagne combination, but grapes must be manually harvested. They must also be whole-bunch pressed, and aged for a minimum of nine months. Our expert panel recommended crémant as an alternative to prosecco or cava.
Alcohol-free or low-alcohol sparkling wine
Alcohol-free or low-alcohol sparkling wine could make a good alternative to the boozy options above. This used to be relatively rare, but availability is increasing - supermarkets such as Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose will often stock an alcohol-free or alcohol-low option
Three tips to get the most from your fizz
Decanting your fizz could help to bring out the flavours that would otherwise be hidden by bubbles, but that doesn't mean you need to fork out on a fancy carafe.
Simply pour sparkling wine into a glass a minute or so before you plan on drinking it. This allows the bubbles to settle enough without letting them disappear completely.
2. Keep it chilled
Pop your sparkling wine into the fridge at least a couple of hours before you plan on serving it - allow a little more time if you need to chill multiple bottles at once.
When you're ready to serve, place your fizz in a container filled with ice and water, as this is better than just using ice alone. As a last resort, you can pop the bottle in the freezer, but make sure you take it out in 20 minutes or less.
It's best to take your sparkling wine out around 10 minutes before pouring, as otherwise you'll stunt the taste and aroma.
3. Pour with precision
If you're hosting guests over the festive season, pour a little bit of sparkling wine in the bottle of each glass just before they arrive. This will stop it frothing over when you come to serve it.
When your glass is being refilled, hold it lower down and slightly tilted, as this will make it easier for your host to pour - and you'll likely end up with more fizz in your glass.
Best champagne on test
Our wine experts also tasted 17 champagnes, including 10 supermarket own-label and exclusive non-vintage (NV) champagnes and seven top-selling big-name champagnes. All were brut (dry) and cost £35 or less.
How much sugar is in your wine
Strict rules govern how sparkling wine and champagne can be described when it comes to dryness and sweetness, with labels determined according to the residual sugar content per litre. Unsurprisingly, this can have a dramatic effect on the taste, so it's worth knowing your brut from your doux.
How we tested
- We disguised all of the bottles before they were chilled, and they were tasted by a panel of wine experts using International Standards Organisation (ISO) wine glasses.
- Each expert tried the wines in a different order, before discussing their tasting notes and agreeing on a score for each bottle and which deserve to be Best Buys.
- Our experts were looking for character, depth, and complexity.
Charles Metcalfe co-chair of the International Wine Challenge (IWC)
Helen McGinn international wine judge and award-winning author
Kathryn McWhirter wine taster, author, journalist, translator and consultant
Peter McCombie Master of Wine, speaker, consultant, co-chairman of the IWC
Sam Caporn Master of Wine, wine consultant, speaker, writer and IWC judge