When friends come over for dinner, I like to start things off with bubbly. Champagne, of course, is wonderful, but it’s a big splurge. So I often end up with Cava, Prosecco or some California fizz.
Another affordable alternative is Crémant de Limoux, from the Languedoc region of southwestern France, near Carcassonne. The wines are dominated by the chardonnay and chenin blanc grapes, and they’re made in the traditional method, like Champagne, in which the secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle in which the wine is sold. (A related wine, Blanquette de Limoux, is based on the local mauzac grape.) Most Crémant de Limoux retails for less than $20.
This crémant is racy and fresh, with citrus, green apple and a touch of creaminess. It’s not super-complex, but you can find it for as little as $13.