A Bit of Bubbly: Going Beyond Champagne

Sparkling wine livens up a celebration like no other because it is an inherently happy wine. At special occasions it is indispensable, seeming to always set the right tone and making any evening more exciting. Kowalski's Wine Specialist Brian Mallie helps us understand our options and offers up some suggestions for your toasting pleasure.

Champagne vs. Crémant

Champagne is the original, sparkling wine's greatest expression, earning its place among the world's best wine regions. The techniques perfected there have been exported to other wine regions around the world. Though Champagne's lofty status is not threatened, there is more exceptional sparkling wine available from these other areas than ever before. The more attractive price of these other sparkling wines means you can keep the bubbly flowing throughout the holidays.

Crémant is the term on the label of the finest dry French sparkling wines made outside of the Champagne region but using the same techniques. Their differences or similarities to Champagne depend heavily on the grapes from which these sparkling wines are made. Burgundy, Alsace and the Loire all have long traditions of making excellent-quality bubbly.

KOWALSKI'S PICK: CLAVELIN CRÉMANT DU JURA BRUT-COMTE – Made from 100% Chardonnay and grown in soils almost identical to Champagne, it's difficult to tell the difference between this particular Crémant and a good grower's Champagne twice its price.

Spanish Cava

Enamored with Champagne, the Spanish began making their own sparkling wine in the 1870s from local varietals Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada. Most is produced in the area around Barcelona. The best have fineness and length, but not the biscuit/toast aromatic character of their French cousins.

KOWALSKI'S PICK: CAVA AVINYÓ BRUT NATURE NV – Fresh, elegant and dry with layers of orchard fruits, spice and a subtle leesy quality, this pairs especially well with Spanish cheeses.


Demi-sec is a term meaning "semi-dry." These wines are in fact lightly sweet and an ideal alternative for those who find Brut sparkling wines too dry. Their charming, sweet character also makes them the only type of bubbly that really work with desserts — as long as the dessert is not too sweet.

KOWALSKI'S PICK: GRUET DEMI-SEC NV – California will have to take a back seat to this upstart from New Mexico. Creamy, with ripe pear and hints of pineapple, it strikes a perfect balance between its pleasing sweetness and necessary acidity.

Visit the Wine Shop in our Woodbury, Eagan, Oak Park Heights and Uptown Markets for professional assistance in selecting wines for any menu or occasion.

Try out your favorite sparkling wine in this holiday cocktail:
Sparkling Pomegranate Cocktail

Scott Zeinert, Cheese Specialist in our Woodbury Market, has the following suggestions for cheeses that pair well with sparkling wine:

Hard cow milk – Italy
Semi-firm cow-goat-sheep milks blend – Spain

Semi-firm goat milk – Spain


Soft cow milk – France

Also recommended:
Soft goat milk – Domestic

Selection and availability of ingredients vary by market.

Your Cheese Specialist is happy to customize a cheese flight or cheese gift basket just for you.

Other cheese flights are available in the Imported Cheese Department, or you can pre-order by calling the Deli Department at your Kowalski's Market.

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