Ahhh… rosé champagne. Now you should already know that I love champagne. If I had a champagne sub-speciality passion, it would be rosé champagne.
I really love rosé champagne.
OK, so I think we’ve established that I love it, so I’d better try and tell you why.
One of the (many) very clever and special steps in making champagne is the pressing technique. The pressing technique is very specific to completely AVOID damaging the skin of the black grapes and not release any colour that would tint the champagne pink.
So how do we end up with rosé-tinted champagne?
The quick answer is they totally ignore that pesky little “pressing to avoid colour taint” rule.
All red wines are made from prolonged contact with the black skinned grapes. For rosé champagne, there are three specific ways it can be made…
Blending (or “Rosé d’assemblage”)
Still red wine (in varying amounts between 5 and 20%) is added to the champagne at the blending stage. The still red wine must – of course – be from champagne grapes to qualify for champagne appellation. This means rosé champagne producers need to make still red wine too.
This technique, at pressing the black grapes are left to macerate in a tank – with the grape juice in contact with the skins – until the juice is the desired colour. Usually this is for about 24-72 hours.
Rosé de saignée
a small percentage of juice is bled off just-crushed red grapes. The portion which is bled off (hence the name saignée) then goes through secondary fermentation in the bottle. The rest is used to make still red wine.
Which method is best?
Honestly, it’s entirely a matter of personal preference. But let’s take a look at some pros and cons so you can make up your own minds. (You know my attitude, like what you like and who cares what anyone else says?)
- Blending is the more commonly used technique. This is considered the easiest technique for a consistent result.
- Macerated rosé champagnes is considered to be a more complicated technique. Rosé champagnes made this way tend to be darker in colour and have stronger fruit flavours.
- Saignée generally produces the palest and most delicate rosés.
I actually don’t think most people could actually pick a rosé champagne in a true blind tasting (because unless it’s a blanc de blancs, all champagne contains pinot grapes and flavours), let alone be able to detect what technique was used but I still find it interesting to know about it.
All this does beg the question… if the art of champagne making is specifically designed to avoid the colour, flavour (and tannins and histamines) that come from the dark grape skins…
does intentionally ADDING them to rosé champagne create a contradiction? It is certainly a tricky wine-making process for champagne to balance the natural acidity of champagne with the red wine tannin.
My personal answer is…. if it is a contradiction, my oh my it can be a beautiful one! (And I do love me some contradiction, so I am not too surprised I am so attracted to rosé champagne.)
Rosé champagne – popularity and price
Rosé is becoming far more popular.. but that could be just my consumption! And you may notice it is usually more expensive.
This is partly because they are rarer. And they are rarer because a house creating a rosé champagne will most likely use the blending method. Which means they actually need to make a still red wine first. And making still red wine requires space, equipment, skills etc that are different from the champagne method. And that comes at a price.
Homework assignment #Champagneschool
There is so much diversity in rosé champagnes and among my friends it is quite polarising when I bring a rosé to dinner.
But if you are looking for a rosé champagne to try, here are a few (actually quite a few!) which I enjoy.
(These are all blended to the best of my knowledge and research unless otherwise stated. I always ask the Chef de Caves or house reps when I meet them about the Rosé technique and the grapes blends when I try their Rosés because I am so interested to try the different techniques).
Perrier Jouet Blason Rosé – 50% pinot noir, 25% meunier and 25% chardonnay with 12 to 15% blended red wine. Dosage – 10g/l I am pictured with a glass of Blason above. This is my good “go to” rosé champagne.
Ruinart NV Rosé – 55% pinot noir, 45% chardonnay – 19% of red is blended still wine. Dosage – 9g/l. Being Ruinart, the style is full of chardonnay. I find this lovely and crisp, almost tropical in a gentle, enjoyable way. Being a Queenslander (hot climate), this is brunch/lunch/Sunday session heaven!
Billecart NV Rosé – 40% chardonnay, 30% pinot meunier, and 30% pinot noir blended with 8% red wine – from my notes taken during house visit June 2015.
Charles Heidsieck NV Rosé – 1/3 of each grape variety, 5-6% blended still red wine. A bit berry and a hint of spice, I wonder if I could pick this as a rosé in a blind tasting as it is very delicate.
Louis Roederer Rosé 2010 – These notes are for 2011 vintage but you really must try the 2010 first. 63% pinot Noir, 37% chardonnay… 22% of the wine vinified in oak casks, 13% malolactic fermentation. Louis Roederer actually combines two methods – maceration and blending. A little chardonnay juice poured into a pinot noir maceration and fermented together to achieve the perfect harmony. The unique technique, the inclusion of oak and the minimal MLF all contribute to a unique and divine champagne, true to the Roederer style which celebrates freshness in champagne. Dosage – 9g/l
Pol Roger 2006 Rosé – 60% pinot noir, 40% chardonnay with 15% still pinot noir. Pol Roger only makes a vintage Rosé and they do it deliciously.
Perrier Jouet Belle Epoch Rosé 2006 – 50% Chardonnay, 45% pinot noir and 5% pinot meuniers (unusual for a cuvée de prestige but common for PJ), blended with 11% still pinot noir red wines. Dosage – 8g/l
Bollinger Grand Annee Rosé, current vintage 2005 – 72% pinot noir, 28% chardonnay, 5% blended red wine. I find this to be a truly magnificent rosé… apparently, the only condition on which Madame Bollinger agreed to make a rosé was that it was to be extraordinary. The very high pinot nior and Bollinger’s oak fermentation make it so. Dosage – 8g/l
In offering these recommendations, there are many rosé champagnes I am yet to try including Cristal, Krug or Dom Perignon Rosé which are on my dream list to indulge in. (Hint to the houses, send me a sample and I will definitely post the experience!) These are possibly among the most expensive champagnes on the market (AU$500-700 a bottle) and are rarely even served at high-end dinners, which is why I am yet to have the pleasure.
Rosé fast facts
- Rosé accounts for about 8.5% of all champagne shipments
- Madame Clicquot, known as ‘La Grande Dame de la Champagne’ and a champagne pioneer created the first ever blend of rosé champagne.
- Bollinger introduced a non-vintage rosé for the first time ever in 2008.
Make sure you post a pic and tag @bubbleandflute #Champagneschool to let me know you’re doing your homework and what you think!
Bubble & Flute promotes the responsible consumption of alcohol for individuals of legal drinking age in their country.