The Allure of Rosé Champagne

Food & Drink

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne RoséPhoto by Tom Hyland

Champagne stimulates us, thanks in no small part to those bubbles. What wine drinker isn’t excited when they taste Champagne, be it to celebrate something grand or small?

Well if Champagne in general has that grip on us, consider rosé Champagne. Given its color – ranging from pink to copper to orange to salmon, and every shade in between – rosé Champagne has an allure – it’s sexy and sensual, and no wonder it’s the Champagne many turn to on Valentine’s Day or any other day that romantic thoughts come to mind.

Rosé Champagne is produced according to two primary methods. One way, the manner used by the majority of producers is to add a bit of still red wine – usually Pinot Noir, although it could be Meunier – to the blend, with the amount usually between 7%-15%; this is where the color comes from for the wine. This method is known as assemblage.

The second method is called saignée - French for “bleed” – and this refers to “bleeding” a bit of color from the skins of the red grapes when they are pressed. Both styles are excellent, and as far as one yielding a fuller-bodied style, it’s difficult to say, as some saignée cuvées are light, while others tend to be quite rich on the palate; the same is true for the traditional method. (The saignée method of producing a rosé Champagne is also known as maceration.)

While there are a few sweeter styles of rosé Champagne produced today – the Petite Douceur from Gosset is a prime example – most rosé cuvées are quite dry. That makes them ideal partners for a variety of foods, especially meat and game; duck breast with a cherry or orange sauce is a heavenly pairing with rosé Champagne. So please forget the tired old notion of “pink” Champagne; too many people have heard this sound bite and take a pass on rosé Champagne in general, fearing it will be like candy in its sweetness. Not true in most instances!

Rosé Champagne does tend to be more expensive than a non-rosé, and producers will tell you that has to do with the additional costs of producing one. This is a more labor intensive product than a non-rosé, but often pricing for rosés has more to do with prestige as well as its limited availability. Whatever the reason, you will have to pay a bit more for a rosé Champagne, but usually, the quality will justify the price. Dom Perignon is a fabulous Champagne, but the Dom Perignon Rosé is truly sublime. Take my word for it, if you love great wine of any kind, you must try this spectacular Champagne at least once in your life.

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Here are notes on several current releases. Approximate pricing on these wines range from $60 to $300 (pricing varies depending on several factors, from availability to local taxes). Unless noted, the cuvées are made according to the traditional rosé style, and are non-vintage.

Palmer Rosé Reserve - Deep orange; aromas of candied watermelon and orange zest. Medium-bodied, this has good acidity and persistence, but the fruit on the palate is a bit candy-like and overall the wine could use greater complexity. Pleasant, but drink over the next 2-3 years. Very Good

Godmé-Sabine - This small producer in Verzenay in the Montagne de Reims crafts elegantly styled Champagne for very reasonable prices; the Blanc de Blancs is very appealing, with impressive varietal character, while this rosé offers lovely harmony. Pale orange hue; aromas of passion fruit, Bosc pear and orange peel. Medium-full with very good acidity, this has very good freshness and balance with a dry finish with a note of biscuit. Nicely made and stylish in a subdued manner. 3-5 years. Excellent

Veuve Clicquot – This historic Reims firm has always been a Pinot Noir house, so it stands to reason that their rosé Champagnes are of impressive quality. This non-vintage offers appealing red cherry and currant fruit with perfumes of orange roses. Medium-bodied with good acidity, this is elegantly dry with a long, pleasing finish. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years. Excellent

Drappier “Saignée” – Located in the Aube in the far southern reaches of Champagne, Drappier represents great value with their entire portfolio of Champagne. Aromas of orange peel, red roses and yellow plums; medium-boded with excellent harmony; Dry, but not overly so, this is elegant and quite refreshing; enjoy over the next 2-3 years. Excellent

Charles Heidsieck Reserve – This underrated producer makes a memorable vintage rosé; for this article I tasted the non-vintage. Aromas of dried strawberry, red currant and red plum. Medium-full with excellent freshness, this is quite dry with a round, very pleasing finish with very good acidity. A lovely food wine that would be wonderful paired with a simple chicken salad with raspberries or duck confit. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years. Excellent

Laurent Perrier “Cuvée Rosé” – Here is one of the most famous of all rosé Champgnes. Created in 1968, the 50th anniversary release was introduced last year in 2018. This is produced in the saignée method, and is 100% Pinot Noir, something of a rarity. Enticing aromas of red cherry, strawberry preserves and orange roses. Medium-full, with a lengthy finish and good acidity, this is one of the most delicious (as well as consistently excellent) of all rosé Champagnes. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years. Outstanding

Geoffroy Rosé de Saignée – Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy, a fifth-generation Champagne producer in Ay, makes both an assemblage as well as a saignée rosé Champagne. This is a non-vintage saignée, produced exclusively from Pinot Noir. Offering rich aromas of red cherry, strawberry and hint of blueberry and yellow plum, this is a bright, very appealing cuvée with gobs of ripe fruit, and a lengthy, dry finish. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years, perhaps longer. Outstanding

Alfred Gratien “Cuvée Paradis” Rosé - A blend of 63% Chardonnay, 37% Pinot Noir vinfied in barrique. Pale orange color; aromas of currant, orange peel and red plum. Medium-full with very good concentration. Good acidity, dry finish, good persistence. Round and elegant, with a powerful finish, this has good acidity, excellent complexity and subtle wood notes; enjoy this over the next 5-7 years. Outstanding 

Gaston-Chiquet – A superb grower Champagne from Dizy that has a total production of less than 15,000 cases annually. A blend of 40% Meunier, 35% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Noir. Striking blood orange color; aromas of orange zest, cranberry and yellow plum. Medium-full, this is quite rich and has a powerful finish with good acidity and ample fruit with notes of red spice. Great complexity, this is very dry with lovely style. A beautiful food rosé Champagne (veal roast, chicken with mushrooms, duck breast et al), enjoy over the next 5-7 years. Outstanding

Krug – One of the most famous Champagne producers, and in reality, one of the most famous wine producers in the world, the Krug rosé is a blend of Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay, from more than 50 reserve wines from vintages as far back as 2000 (this for the current “21st edition” of Krug Rosé). Beautiful pale strawberry color; rich, but subdued aromas of red currant, dried cherry, carnation and yellow plum. Medium-full with a rich mid-palate and a lengthy, seamless finish. This is not as powerful as their Grand Cuvée, but it is extremely well made with excellent complexity and grace. Enjoy over the next 5-7 years. Outstanding

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé 2006 – A blend of 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, with 12% Pinot Noir added as still wine. Deep strawberry/copper. Aromas of blood orange, tangerine and yellow orchid. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Ripe and flavorful, this has very good acidity, excellent persistence and delicate red spice notes. Very stylish, this needs a rich entrée such as duck confit or roast veal. Enjoy over the next 5-7 years. Superb

Perrier-Jouet “Belle Epoque” 2006 – This is the famous Flower Bottle; while the Brut is well known, the rosé is not, and production is quite limited. This is a blend of 50% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 5% Meunier, with 11% still red wine. Gorgeous pale orange color; aromas of dried raspberry, orange rose and red plum. Medium-full with a rich, sumptuous mid-palate, excellent persistence, very good acidity and superb complexity with lovely finesse. I first tasted this 2006 two years ago and was quite impressed; today, the wine has more suppleness and greater complexity. This is a superb rosé that is beautifully understated in its approach, while offering delicious fruit flavors and supreme harmony. Lovely now, this should drink well for another 4-5 years, but perhaps longer. Superb

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