Champagne Doesn’t Make the Best Mimosas — Here’s What to Buy Instead
Champagne hasn’t been exactly cheap for some time, but it’s shot up in price even more in the last few years. A combination of factors — including a few difficult harvests, supply-chain issues, and inflation — means that unless you’re Jeff Bezos, real Champagne is a little spendy for a brunch cocktail. So what should you have instead?
What’s the best Champagne for mimosas?
Sparkling wine from the Champagne region in France can be expensive. Cava, a sparkling wine made in Spain, makes for a more affordable mimosa at about $13 a bottle. Plus, it has a dry, crisp taste similar to Champagne.
What is Champagne?
Before we get to the mimosa making, let’s talk about Champagne for a second. Champagne is a region in France, so when we refer to Champagne, what we’re talking about is a specific type of sparkling wine made in a specific region. To be labeled Champagne, a wine has to be from the Champagne region, meet certain quality standards, be made from certain grape varieties — and you have to sing the vines a lullaby every night. (Just kidding about that last part.)
The quality standards and aging requirements make Champagne a labor-intensive wine. You can’t just call any old fizzy wine Champagne, and the French are adamant about this. Try calling a sparkling wine made in Idaho Champagne. You’ll be fielding lawsuits before you’re popping bottles.
What should you use instead?
Prosecco is often recommended as a substitute for Champagne in mimosas, and Prosecco’s fruitier profile can be nice in a sparkling cocktail. However, I think Cava, a sparkling wine made in Spain, works best for mimosas. Not only does it come closest to tasting like Champagne, but it’s also generally less expensive.
Cava is usually made in the same method as Champagne, where the secondary fermentation that creates all those tiny bubbles is done inside the bottle. This gives many Cavas a slightly yeasty note that Champagne is also known for. The grape varieties used to make Cava also have a lemony, crisp flavor that makes the sparkling wine drier and less fruity than Prosecco — and more in line with the flavor profile of the most popular styles of Champagne.
Which bottle of bubbly should you buy?
One of my favorites is Papet del Mas Cava Brut, which I usually see for between $11 to $15. I’d happily drink it on its own, but it’s perfect in a mimosa. If you want a bit of an upgrade, Cava Mestres 1312 Reserva Brut is another fantastic brand that’s usually less than $20 and a noticeable step up from Papet. Is that necessary for a brunch cocktail that involves something as strongly flavored as orange juice? Probably not, but sometimes it’s nice to treat yourself.
I would avoid buying the cheapest Champagne you can find. There are bottles out there in the $20 to $30 range that technically qualify as Champagne, but they’re not usually very good. They tend to be made by wineries focusing on quantity who are buying grapes from lots of different vineyard sources, rather than using their own estate vineyards or a few trusted vineyards. When it comes to sparkling wine, I’ve found that it’s better to get a quality version of something inexpensive than a cheap version of something that’s usually expensive.
How do you make a mimosa?
The classic mimosa proportions are equal parts orange juice (preferably freshly squeezed, but I’m not here to give you a homework assignment) and sparkling wine. Many recipes call for 3/4 ounce or so of orange liqueur like Grand Marnier, which punches up the orange flavor and booziness factor. Personally, I prefer the proportions in the cocktail that likely inspired the mimosa, the Buck’s Fizz, which are two parts sparkling wine to one part orange juice. I also like a dash of Grand Marnier, but it’s optional.
What bubbly do you buy for mimosas? Tell us about it in the comments.