Wedding Details: Not Just for Toasting

Champagne is the wine most closely associated with festivity, but even labels less lofty than Louis Roederer Cristal and Dom Pérignon can be prohibitively expensive. Fortunately, many affordable alternatives are available. Prices are per bottle for retail purchases. You may pay more for bottles purchased through a caterer or restaurant.

Only bubbly produced within the Champagne region of France is true Champagne. It can be made from a single grape, such as chardonnay, or a blend of grapes, such as pinot noir, meunier and chardonnay. Champagnes can range in color from very pale tan to slightly pink to almost bronze, and in flavor from very dry (blanc de blancs) to medium-dry (brut or sec) to somewhat sweet (demi-sec). Rosé Champagnes are especially prized. Expect to pay $35 and up for brand-name nonvintage Champagnes, and more than $100 for specialty cuvées such as Dom Pérignon.

Sparkling wine
The proper term for wines with bubbles made outside the Champagne region is sparkling wine. French sparkling wines from Loire, Alsace, Limoux and Jura deliver, often for less than $20 a bottle.

Many French Champagne houses now have California operations—but they don’t call their products Champagne. Look for Domaine Chandon (Moët & Chandon); Domaine Carneros (Taittinger) and Roederer Estate (Louis Roederer). Top California producers include Schramsberg, Iron Horse and J Sonoma. California specialty cuvées can range from $40 to more than $70, but nonvintage Domaine Chandon blanc de noirs can be found selling for as little as $13. Domaine Ste. Michelle from Washington state is another good choice for tight budgets.

Italy’s best-known sparkling wine is the sweet, unremarkable asti spumante, best served with dessert (if at all). But prosecco—a light, dry wine from the Veneto region that includes Venice, such as Bele Casel Prosecco di Valdobbiadene—is now a fashionable choice to serve with hors d’oeuvres. It retails for about $14.

Prosecco’s Spanish equivalent is cava; the brands most commonly available in this country are Codorniu and Freixenet.

Germany’s sparkling wines are called sekt. The best ones are made from the Riesling grape.