A Guide to French Sparkling Wines That Aren’t Champagne

French sparkling wines

Champagne has been a dominating force in the wine industry for centuries. People often opt for the prestigious effervescent fizz whenever they’re in a celebratory mood. However, that comes at a cost, sometimes a very large one. 

The bubbly wine’s marketing prowess is primarily due to the region’s strict rules. Champagne’s Protected Designation of Origin, or PDO, dictates that any bottle of wine that puts “Champagne” on its label must come from the specific area in France with the same name. These rules are so strict that Belgium authorities recently destroyed thousands of cans of Miller Lite simply because it famously goes by the nickname the “champagne of beers” in the U.S.  

Because of Champagne’s notoriety, the quality of the wines from the region is consistently stellar, mainly because of their heavy, sometimes arduous amounts of regulation. Yet, many areas of France have similar climates, grapes, and winemaking practices without ardent guidelines and hefty price tags.  

For those with a Champagne taste and a beer budget, read ahead for fantastic French sparkling wines that are not Champagne.


Regions: Loire Valley, Bordeaux, Limoux, Die, Savoie, Jura, Bourgogne, Alsace.

Crémant might be one of the best-kept secrets of all French sparkling wine. In short, this wine style is precisely the same as Champagne but from outside the Champagne region. For example, a purchase of Crémant de Bourgogne would include a bottle produced via Méthode Champenoise (or traditional method) from grapes grown within a 2-hour drive of the prestigious region. Talk about a deal!

Crémant is produced in several regions across France. Many areas, including Bourgogne, Alsace, Limoux, and Jura, use Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, two of the three primary grapes in Champagne.

Other regions producing Crémant include the Loire Valley, Bordeaux, Savoie, and Die, each with more flexible guidelines. Governing bodies dictate they can use grapes of their region but maintain some of Champagne’s regulations regarding hand-harvesting, lees aging, and more. The result is wines with similar quality but fewer conditions, making for a lower price of entry. 

Clairette de Die

Region: Rhône Valley

Clairette de Die is an appellation surrounding the town of Die in the Rhône Valley. It is one of the only AOCs in the Rhône Valley specifically for sparkling wine. Clairette is the white grape that grows primarily there, as well as Provence and the Languedoc. Wines from Clairette de Die must be 100% Clairette and are usually in the Brut style, which is a dry wine.

These wines are mainly made in the traditional method, though Clairette de Die Tradition uses an ancestral method known as Méthode Dioise Ancestrale. This method begins with an incomplete fermentation, where the grapes are bottled in the middle of fermentation and kept at 53.6°F (12°C) to prolong the fermentation process. Only 25% of the wines can use the Clairette grape in Clairette de Die Tradition. The other 75% is white Muscat, also known as Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains.

Clairette de Bellegarde Pétillant

Region: Rhône Valley

Clairette de Bellegarde AOC is a tiny appellation in the Southern Rhône Valley. It’s an unusual AOC in the region because it only has one grape, Clairette. It includes only a handful of winegrowers in wine cellars and collaborative wineries, such as La Clairette Co-Op.

The wines are made via the ancestral method (pét-nat) and are fresh and ready to drink early.


Region: Rhône Valley

Saint-Péray is an appellation at the southernmost point of Northern Rhône. The area is about 75 hectares and sits just west of Valence. The area is rich in limestone soils, which moderates the vines’ temperature and extends the growing season.

This AOC is exclusively for sparkling wines using the Marsanne grape. These sparkling wines are made in the traditional method and are lighter in style.

Blanquette de Limoux

Region: Languedoc-Roussillon

Blanquette de Limoux may not be France’s most famous bubbly wine on the list, but the region for which it’s known is sparkling wine’s birthplace. The first mention of Blanquette, an old French word for ‘the small white’, is in 1531. Benedictine monks described the production and distribution of the wine at an abbey in Saint-Hilaire within Limoux.

Because of that historical anecdote, Blanquette became one of the first AOCs in the Languedoc region in 1938. Wines from the area use the Mauzac grape, which they refer to as Blanquette locally. Like Clairette de Die, these wines are primarily made in the traditional method. But some also use the ancestral method, Blanquette Méthode ancestrale, involving minimal modern techniques or machinery. Blanquette is a great option for tasting the rich history of sparkling wine in France.


Region: Loire Valley

Montlouis may be a lesser-known region in France, but that’s why the value there is excellent. The area’s official name is Montlouis sur Loire or Montlouis on the Loire, and it sits between the Loire and the Cher rivers, providing a wet and moderate climate with clay and flint soils.

Sparkling wines from Montlouis use the traditional method and are 100% Chenin Blanc, or Pineau de Loire, as they call it locally. They also make a Pétillant that undergoes a second fermentation. These wines tend to have white flower notes in addition to the traditional citrus and brioche aromas of Champagne. They can also develop almond, quince and honey notes, along with minerality, over time.

Saumur Mousseux

Region: Loire Valley

Whenever an appellation uses the term “mousseux”, which translates to “fine bubbles” in English, it is an area exclusively focused on sparkling wine. The Loire Valley has several AOCs producing sparkling wine; Saumur is among the most important.

Saumur Mousseux is an appellation of the Saumur region in the central Loire Valley. Wines in this area are made from Chenin Blanc grapes, often complemented by Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Occasionally, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc can be added for sparkling rosé.

Vouvray Mousseux & Vouvray Pétillant

Region: Loire Valley

Vouvray Mousseux and Vouvray Pétillant are sparkling wine regions of Vouvray, a Chenin Blanc-focused region in the Touraine region of the Loire Valley. Pétillant wines are typically semi-sparkling, while Mousseux is fully sparkling.

Between the riper Chenin Blanc grapes and the extended lees contact (12 months or longer), these wines tend to be heavier and more aromatic than other French sparkling wines, including Champagne.

These wines are made in the traditional method and stored on riddling racks during the second fermentation.


Region: Bugey

Bugey is one of the newer sparkling wine AOCs in the country, promoted to an AOC in 2009. Bugey wines, particularly sparkling wines, are made from Chardonnay, Jacquére, and Molette. Rosé wines use Gamay and Pinot Noir as well.

While Bugey can produce still wines in addition to sparkling, Bugey-Cerdon is an exclusively sparkling wine appellation of Bugey. These are sparkling rosé wines from Gamay and the lesser-known Poulsard made in the ancestral method. These wines differ from Champagne, not having a second application of yeast or sugars in the bottle. Additionally, they are floral and sweeter than Champagne, with up to 80 grams per liter of residual sugar.

Savoie Ayze

Region: Savoie

Savoie Ayze (also written as Ayse) is a cru of the Vin de Savoie AOP. It’s a distinct part of the appellation, located around the mountainous landscape in Eastern France south of Lake Geneva, creating a unique wine and wine style for the region.

Savoie Ayze wines are all sparkling wines using Gringet, Roussette d’Ayze, and Altesse grapes, all local to the area. Ayze is a cool continental climate, which makes for crisp, high-acid sparkling wines.


Region: Savoie

About 80 miles (128 km) east of Savoie Ayze, on the other side of Lake Geneva, is a village-only appellation, Seyssel. Still white wines are allowed in the region, but it is known for floral, rich sparkling wines using Molette and Altesse. Chasselas, a Swiss grape, also grows here.

Bourgogne Mousseux

Region: Bourgogne

Bourgogne Mousseux translates to “fine bubbles of Burgundy”. The region includes nearly 400 communes across the entirety of the area. It primarily includes Pinot Noir and Gamay, though Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris can be used in small amounts (around 10%).

The region, therefore, produces sparkling red wines, though many examples will seem more like sparkling rosé. The resulting styles differ significantly because the wines and their communes span the entirety of Burgundy.

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