By definition, "Champagne" comes from a very specific region in France, is made from specific grapes, and made in a certain style. Unfortunately, "Champagne" starts at about $30-35/bottle minimum, but most of the good stuff is in the $40-60 per bottle range.
That being said, there are lots of good bubbly wines from all around the world that don't technically fall into the category of true Champagne. There are fantastic Cava wines from Spain, delicious Prosecco producers from northern Italy, great California imitations, and my new favorite: Franciacorta!
For all intensive purposes, Franciacorta is Italian champagne. Franciacorta is made from the same grapes as Champagne, and in the same method; called Methode Champenoise (if you're French) or Methode Franciacorta (if you're Italian). However, legal requirements for production volume, aging process, and grapes used are more strict in Italy than in France. Does that mean that Franciacorta from northern Italy is better than Champagne from France? Not necessarily. But it should make you wonder how loose the laws are in France!
Tonight's wine is the Tenuta Villa Crespia Franciacorta "Brolese" Brut Rose. Made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this out-drinks many true Champagnes I've had at twice the price. The nose is fruity with a touch of earthy-funk, just like a traditional Champagne. On the palate the Brolese has some fruit, balanced with great acidity, a nice long finish, and perfectly dry.
As a Champange lover/snob/junkie, I feel that I can make an informed opinion of sparkling wine and bubbly imitations. Let me tell you: This is d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s.!!! I'm generally a fan of the small-production, high-quality grower Champagnes (especially from the Terry Thiese portfolio), and the Villa Crespia "Brolese" holds its own against many Rose Champagne's I've tried. Plus, to top it off, the "Brolese" should be selling at your local wine shop for about half the price of VC Rose, MC Rose, or any other big brand 'champagne' Rose!
Villa Crespia "Brolese" Brut Rose
TCSH Rating: 9/10
Aka - Stunning, I love it!
Bibo Ergo Sum