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Rosé Champagne
By Ed McCarthy
Dec 26, 2017
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Rosé Champagnes have become enormously popular in the U.S.  Many Americans have finally realized that Rosé Champagnes are dry, just as are virtually all other Champagnes.  The category accounts for 15 percent of all Champagnes sold in the U.S. today. This is a huge amount considering the fact that Rosé Champagnes make up less than 5 percent of the entire Champagne production, and a testament to the fact that American consumers have embraced them enthusiastically.

Rosé Champagnes run the gamut from the light-bodied, elegant styles, which are perfect as aperitifs, to the full-bodied rosés, which pair quite well with entrées ranging from meat dishes to fish, seafood, and vegetarian cuisine.  Mushrooms, in particular, go extremely well with Champagnes.
  
In early December, I sponsored a Rosé Champagne tasting and lunch for the leading wine writers’ group in New York, the Wine Media Guild.  I was able to secure 22 different Champagnes for the event.  The tasting/luncheon sold out quickly, and was an extremely popular event. 

The following is the list of 22 Champagnes we tasted. The average retail price in the metropolitan New York market is also listed:

Ayala Rosé Brut Majeur NV, $50-$55
Henri Giraud “Fut de Chene” Brut Rosé NV, $90 and up
Lamiable Grand Cru Brut Rosé NV, $50
Phillipe Gonet Brut Rosé NV, $50-$58
Boizel Brut Rosé NV, $54-$58
Collet Brut Rosé NV, $52-$53
Duval-Leroy 1er Cru Brut Rosé NV, $68-$74

Mumm Brut Rosé NV, $57
Henriot Brut Rosé NV, $60
Piper-Heidsieck Sauvage Rosé NV, $57-$59
Lenoble Brut Rosé NV, $43-$45
Deutz Brut Rosé NV, $55-$65
Alfred Gratien Brut Rosé NV, $46-$50               
Louis Roederer Brut Rosé 2011, $70-$73
Bollinger Brut Rosé NV, $77-$90
Moet & Chandon Extra Brut Rosé 2009, $60-$65
Charles Heidsieck Brut Rosé Reserve NV, $75

Pol Roger Brut Rosé 2008, $90-$99
Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque Rosé 2006, $300
Taittinger Comtes Brut Rosé 2006, $190-$200   
Ruinart Dom Ruinart Brut Rosé 2004, $225-$250
Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame Rosé 2006, $292-$304

Fifteen of the Rosés tasted at the Wine Media Guild luncheon were non-Vintage; seven were Vintage, including the last four, which are Prestige Cuvées--the best Champagne that each Champagne house produces.  Non-Vintage (or, more precisely, Multi-Vintage Champagnes) are far more common than Vintage Rosés; using Champagnes from multiple vintages is more practical than producing Rosé from a single year’s crop.  Rosés are typically produced by adding a little Pinot Noir (and/or Pinot Meunier) still wine to the blend.  A few Champagne houses use the saignée process, which involves Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier grapes soaking in the juice until the desired pink color has been reached.

Rosé Champagnes are invariably more expensive than white Champagnes, priced retail about $10 more--and even more for Vintage Rosés and Prestige Cuveé Rosés (always made in small quantities).  The process of making Rosé Champagnes is just more costly than producing white Champagnes.

My comments on the Rosé Champagnes we tasted follow:

Ayala Rosé Brut Majeur NV:  51% Chardonnay, 41% Pinot Noir, 9%  Pinot Meunier.  The perfect apéritif Champagne for me:  Light, elegant, and pretty. Fresh, with good acidity and a fruity finish.  Owned by Bollinger, known for its full-bodied Champagnes.

Henri Giraud “Fut de Chene” Brut Rosé NV:  70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay.  All Grand Cru grapes from the commune of Aÿ.  The base wine for this Champagne is fermented in oak.  Our bottle was showing some age; drink it now.

Lamiable Grand Cru Brut Rosé:  Deep cherry-red color, full-bodied, dry, flavors reminiscent of wild strawberries. Very popular with the group; definitely one of the best values in the tasting.

Philippe Gonet Brut Rosé NV:  90% Chardonnay (from the Grand Cru village of Mesnil-sur-Oger), 10 % Pinot Noir. Orange hue; full-bodied, ready to drink.

Boizel Brut Rosé NV:  50% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier, 20% Chardonnay.  Fresh, very good depth; Pinot Noir comes from the excellent Pinot Noir vineyards in Cumières.  Another favorite of the group.

Collet Brut Rosé NV:  40% Chardonnay, 40 % Pinot Noir, 20% Pinot Meunier. Dry, lively, good concentration; tastes of raspberries and strawberries; drinking well now.

Duval-Leroy 1er Cru Brut Rosé NV:  Primarily Pinot Noir, with a touch of Chardonnay.  Fruity, with good concentration of flavor.  A favorite of the group.

G.H. Mumm Brut Rosé NV:  80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay.  Pale pink color, very fruity, but dry; tastes of strawberries; very fresh, lovely to drink now.

Henriot Brut Rosé NV:  60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay (from Grand Cru villages on the Côte des Blancs). Henriot is known for its great Chardonnay vineyards.  The best word to describe all Henriot Champagnes is elegance.  Onion skin color; fruity concentration, with a ripe, fruity finish.  For me, the best Champagne of the first nine.

Piper-Heidsieck Sauvage Rosé NV:  50-60% Pinot Noir, 20-25% Pinot Meunier, 10-15% Chardonnay.  If you like very fruity Champagnes, this one is for you.  It is rich, and uniquely fruity.  Not for every Champagne lover.  Perhaps most appealing to novice Champagne drinkers.

A.R. Lenoble Brut Rosé NV:  89% Chardonnay, 11% Pinot Noir.  This small producer from the village of Damery, the least expensive and the best value Champagne in the tasting, had a following among the tasters, one of whom declared it her favorite.  Lovely pale pink color, good depth of fruit, vey concentrated.  Still very young.

Deutz Brut Rosé NV:  80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay.  Fairly light-bodied, with a taste of fresh strawberries.  Deutz Champagnes are just returning to the New York market after a brief absence.  Champagne Louis Roederer is the major owner of Deutz.

Alfred Gratien Brut Rosé NV:  45% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Meunier, 15% Pinot Meunier.  A small house, best-known for its Prestige Cuvée, Cuvée Paradis.  Dry, very good depth and concentration.  Tastes of red currants and strawberries.

Louis Roederer Brut Rosé 2011:  65-70% Pinot Noir, 30-35% Chardonnay.  Great depth, very concentrated.  Also very young.  I tasted the 2008 Roederer Rosé recently, and it was magnificent.  Louis Roederer’s Pinot Noir grapes come from the village of Cumières.  I would hold on to this 2011 for two or three years.

Bollinger Brut Rosé NV:  62% Pinot Noir, 14% Pinot Meunier, 24% Chardonnay.  Full-bodied, pale copper color; surprisingly soft for Bollinger, and ready to drink.  Bollinger’s Vintage Rosé, its best Rosé, is excellent, but expensive (around $200) and difficult to find.

Moët & Chandon Extra Brut Rosé 2009:  48% Pinot Noir, 32% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier.  Very fresh, very young, concentrated and solid.  Moët’s Rosé has just been released, and needs a bit more time, for my palate, at least.

Charles Heidsieck Brut Rosé Reserve NV:  One-third each of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier, Charles Heisieck’s usual NV blend.  For me, Charles Heidsieck is the most underrated Champagne producer in the world, and one of the best.  The rosé has depth, richness, and purity; it has been aged for at least four years, and is ready to drink.  A great Rosé Champagne!  Charles Heidsieck’s Vintage Rosé is superb, but it’s about twice the price of its very good NV Rosé.

Pol Roger Brut Rosé 2008:  50% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier.  Aged on its lees for seven years.  It is full-bodied, dry, and ready to drink.  Pol Roger has a reputation for producing long-lived Champagnes, and this 2008, a great vintage, should be fine for many more years.

Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Rosé 2006:  50% Chardonnay (from Grand Cru village of Cramant), 45% Pinot Noir, 5% Pinot Meunier.  Rich and voluptuous, as a Prestige Cuvée should be. Also, very gentle and pretty.  Elegant, but with intense flavors.  It will age well for at least a decade.

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Brut Rosé 2006:  70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay.  Very concentrated, still very young.  This Champagne used to be 100% Pinot Noir; the addition of 30% Chardonnay has made it even better than previously.  Very concentrated, definitely a dinner Champagne.

Ruinart, Dom Ruinart Brut Rosé 2004:  81% Chardonnay, 19% Pinot Noir.  This Prestige Cuvée has always been known for its excellent Chardonnay.  An exciting Champagne, so elegant and well-made.  Rich, with very good depth. It has a long future.  Just about perfect.

Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame Rosé Brut 2006:  53% Chardonnay, 47% Pinot Noir. The most full-bodied Rosé in the group; still quite young.  The favorite Champagne for many of the tasters.  Very distinctive.

My favorite Rosé Champagnes in the group were Dom Ruinart, Charles Heidsieck, and Henriot, in that order.  Honorable mention for Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame, Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque, and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne.  But almost all of the Champagnes had their following.

 I hope you enjoy some great Champagnes in the New Year; you certainly can’t go wrong with a delicious Rosé.