Champagne and New Year's go hand-in-hand, but the sparkling stuff can get pricey. USA TODAY Network asked three wine experts to help you find the right option for $20 or less.
First, a few basics
Be careful about throwing around the word "champagne." True Champagne (with a capital C) is sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France. Champagne is made of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier and fermented in a labor-intensive procedure.
You'll be hard-pressed to find a bottle of Champagne under $20, but there are plenty of champagne-like options for $20 or less that won't disappoint.
Just don't be too cheap, warns David Speer, sommelier and owner of Ambonnay, a champagne and sparkling wine bar in Portland, Ore., who was named one of the Top 10 Sommeliers of the Year in 2013 by Food and Wine Magazine.
"I tend to avoid anything in the $8-10 range," Speer said.
Need something to wow the masses? Prosecco is the "hottest, most popular" sparkling wine, said Jay Youmans, a Master of Wine and owner of the Capital Wine School in Washington. Made in Italy, prosecco smells fruitier and has less of the "yeasty" characteristic of Champagne, Youmans said.
Sommelier Oumy Diaw, a Champagne expert, recommends buyers focus on flavor over fizz. "Bubbles are fun, but if you focus only on the bubbles, you miss the story of the wine," she said.
•Zardetto Prosecco ($12).
•La Marca Prosecco ($12).
•Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava ($8).
•Dibon Brut Reserve Cava ($12).
•Adami Garbel Prosecco ($20).
•Naveran Cava ($15).
•Gregoletto Prosecco ($20).
•Szigeti Gruner Veltliner ($20).
Close to the real deal
If you want to stick to the Champagne taste and also stick to the $20 budget, one option is crémant. This champagne-like wine is produced in France. Crémant is still made using the Champagne method but not in the Champagne region, so it cannot be technically called Champagne. These wines will be labeled Crémant de (region in France). For example, a Crémant de Bourgogne indicates the sparkling wine is from the Burgundy region.
•Crémant de Bourgogne Bailly Lapierre Brut ($20).
All three recommended the Roederer Estate Brut ($20), made in California.
Diaw said nothing is a true substitute for Champagne.
"You have the heritage, the history and the fact this is the only region that even low-end Champagne is synonymous with luxury," she said.
For big spenders ...
If you want to really live up the last night of 2013 and blow through the $20 budget:
•Youmans' pick: Krug Vintage Champagne (a vintage from 2000 sells for about $250).
•Speer's pick: Krug Grande Cuvée ($150).
•Diaw's picks: For full-bodied champagne, anything from Krug or Bollinger.
Avoid a hangover
A bad hangover usually accompanies drinking the cheap stuff because the winemaker will add a lot of sugar to make it more drinkable, Speer said. Both alcohol and sugar dehydrates you, so with cheap sparkling wine, you get a "double-whammy," he said. On top of that, often people will drink the low-cost brands with sweet juices, putting even more sugar into their bodies. Again, it's probably a good idea to stick to that $10-or-above rule for a bottle of wine, he said.
"I think all of us would spend an extra buck or two to avoid a nasty hangover," Speer said.