Due to the progress in quality wine-making overall, which naturally includes the production of sparkling wines, such alternatives are becoming easier and easier to find.
On several occasions recently I have been particularly impressed with the sparking wines from the Jura region on France's eastern border, between Switzerland and Burgundy. Called Crémant de Jura, and produced using the same grapes and techniques as those applicable in Champagne (with the occasional minor variation on the grape side), these reasonable sparklers now account for about 25% of this small region's wine production. I think that this shows that they have something here, and certainly I have found that these crémants tend to show more character than those from many other parts of France. One should remember here that most regions of this country can produce sparking wines, either using the Champagne double-fermentation method, or various other techniques. But on the whole it is the coolest regions that produce the best results : Alsace, Jura, Burgundy and Loire. I would recommend that you look for those from the least well-known of these four, on account of their distinctive style, both lively and quite full on the palate, with just the gentlest hint of something resembling bitterness that kind of brings all the other flavours into tighter focus.
Crémant de Jura, Blanc Brut 2007, Domaine Rolet Père et Fils
Here is a particularly good example that I tried last night with a couple of friends. It comes from the excellent Jura producer called Rolet. This vintage crémant costs a very reasonable 10 euros per bottle (or even less from some retailers). Its flavours are delicious and its texture is fine and creamy. It probably shows slightly lower acidity than a Champagne, but has quite enought to be very refreshing. It made for a perfect aperitif and held up well when nibbling stuff that one nibbles before a meal.
My rather poor photograph of the empty bottle (it didn't take long to reach that stage, which is a very good sign!) could be construed to suggest that I consider this wine to be a work of art, if one regards the title of the book in the background. That is just bad framing and laziness on my behalf. No wines are "works of art", they are just drinks, some of them enjoyable ones, and some of them telling interesting stories. They are a produce of craftsmen or industrials, and are produced in multiple examples, hence not eligeable for "unique" status. And, even more important, one has to destroy them in order to enjoy them!