Champagne joins history's long list of aphrodisiacs for Valentine's Day. Although it's cheaper than caviar or truffles, easier to obtain than ambergris -- all tried-and-true titillators. Champagne can cost.
A bottle of true French Champagne exacts between $30 and hundreds of dollars. Nice, if you can do it, but I want to offer you some alternatives. All sparklers, all bubblies — but from outside the Champagne district and, hence, less expensive but no less festive or sparkling than Champagne — or the two of you.
While Charmat method (also known as tank method or cuve close) sparkling wine has nowhere near the finesse of sparkling wine made in the Champagne method, it delivers on what you're after: those happy bubbles.
What follows is a tour of global sparklers, some made the traditional way, others Charmat.
World tasting tour
This has become Italy's great gift to the world of sparkling wine. Named for the grape of the same name, prosecco (known also as glera) is now Prosecco, a region of the Veneto of northeastern Italy. Easygoing, sometimes ever-so-slightly sweet, its most famous place is in a glass with white peach puree to form the cocktail of Venice, the bellini.
Best bet producers: Nino Franco, Mionetto Sergio, Adami
When the Germans make a sparkling wine — either in the Champagne method or via Charmat process — they call it sekt. Most are based in riesling, making for a particular dry, incisive style of bubbly.
Best bet producers: Fitz-Ritter, Barth extra brut, Kalinda dry, Sekthaus pinot blanc
The Spanish make millions of bottles of their well-priced Champagne method sparkling wine called cava. It comes in many styles, from off-dry to bone dry, and in both pink and white. Cava may be the world's best value in sparkling wine. Some can be had for $10-$11 a bottle and, remember, it's Champagne method so the price is a terrific value.
Best bet producers: Jane Ventura, Segura Viudas (especially Reserva Heredad), Juve y Camps, Raventos i Blanc, Jaume Serra
The northern Italians in Piedmont make a delicious, frothy, slightly sweet (to sometimes cloyingly sweet) sparkling wine from the moscato grape. Its best known version is moscato d'Asti, made from grapes grown near the town of Asti. This is not a serious wine, but for folk who enjoy bubbly dessert, this is it.
Best bet producers: Martini & Rossi, Ballatore (an American imitation made in California)