Words by Jean-Remi Barbier
“I only drink champagne on two occasions, when I am in love and when I am not,”, said Coco Chanel.
Valentine’s Day is fast approaching! Whether you plan on a solo date or have plans with a significant other, there is little excuse not to open a bottle of bubbles from the region of Champagne, France. Champagne is the incarnation of love. It expresses elegance, vivacity and delicacy. Champagne, and in particular, rosé champagne, is the quintessence of romance.
Many archives mention that the first rosé champagne was created by Madame Barbe-Nicole Clicquot, famously known as the Veuve Clicquot, in 1818, made through “assemblage”, by adding red wines from the village of Bouzy. However, the first established Champagne House, Ruinart, also has rosé champagne accounting records dating back to the 18th Century. In March 1764, it was written that there was a shipment of “a basket of 120 bottles, 60 of which were “Oeil de Perdrix” (eye of the partridge). This term refers to a delicate pink and coppery colored style of wine. Many other words were used to define this color such as rozet, paillé (straw), clairet (pale wine), and even cerise (cherry). The expression “Oeil de Perdrix” was no longer used by the end of the 18th century, having been replaced by rozet and then rosé.
“It is probably a rosé de saignée even though nothing is explicitly mentioned about it” says Caroline Fiot, former oenologist at Ruinart.
In 2019, 15.4 million bottles of rosé champagne were made, representing only 5% of the total champagne production - making it very special. Rosé champagne is very well-loved in the U.S where it remains the number one market by volume in the world with 4.2 million bottles imported in 2019. This type of champagne has a 16.4% share among other categories that is enjoyed in the US, behind Brut Non-Vintage accounting for 69.2%. In Austria and Russia, rosé champagne also occupies a strong position in the category at 16.5% and 14.9% respectively of share of consumption.
But how is this particular rosé color obtained?
Rosé d’assemblage, or blended champagne, is the most widely used method. First, the red and the white wines are each fermented separately into still wine. The wines are then blended together before bottling for the second fermentation, As is the rule in Champagne, the 2nd fermentation must occur in the same bottle in which it’s sold. Champagne is the only French region to allow blending of white wine with red wine. Typically, a rosé blend consists of 5% to 20% of still red wine (from Champagne!).
The other method, rosé de saignée or macerated champagne, although used less often, is also permitted. This term literally means “bleeding off”, a process in which black-skinned grapes are crushed and the skins soaked in the musts for a limited period of time, usually 24 to 72 hours to impact color and tannins into the wine. Once the color is obtained, the musts are removed and then fermentation starts. Due to the process, rosé de saignée tends to achieve a darker pink color and higher tannin level than rosé d’assemblage. Moreover, the maceration method brings more tannins to the wine. The longer the maceration is, the stronger the flavor profile the champagne will have.
Five go-to champagnes and pairings for Valentine’s Day:
Louis Roederer Brut Nature Rosé 2012
This zero dosage champagne, like true love, is made without artifice or pretense. Furthermore, the vineyards are cultivated according to the principles of biodynamics, a virtuous method of viticulture that preserves the character of the terroir. Love at first sight.
Over the years Louis Roederer has developed a unique technique for the production of its rosé champagnes. This process, referred to by Roederer as the “infusion technique,” consists of allowing the Pinot Noir musts to macerate with the grape skins for 7-10 days at a cold temperature. The red Pinot Noir musts are then assembled with white Chardonnay musts and vinified together. It is a technique that incorporates both assemblage and saignée.
Orange hue with salmon pink tints. Spicy aromas of Sichuan pepper, intense fruity notes of wild raspberries. Very linear with a juicy structure and a concentrated finish.
Food pairing: Miso black cod with pickled ginger salad topped with Tsar Imperial Ossetra from Petrossian.
Larmandier-Bernier Extra Brut Rosé de Saignée NV
Uncommon blend of 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Gris from the same old plot organically grown in Vertus in Cote des Blancs. Larmandier-Bernier maintains a perpetual blend similar to a solera that contains a small portion of different vintages dating back many years.
Beautiful salmon color resulting from several days of maceration. Exquisite notes of fruits such as orange rind, red berries and pear. Delicate aromas of rose petals will serve only to enhance the bouquet you’ve sent (or not) to your loved one. The finish is stunning with a bright acidity.
Food pairing: combination of sushi and sashimi such as Blue Fin tuna, King salmon and Uni.
Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage NV
“I go to bed with a few drops of Chanel No. 5 and I wake up each morning to a glass of Piper-Heidsieck; it warms me up,” said Marilyn Monroe.
Spice up your Valentine’s party with this glamorous (and sauvage) rosé champagne.
A darker shade of pink due to the high proportion (25%) of red wine in the blend. Intense and aromatic nose of red currant and cherries. Vinous and well-structured on the palate with lot of roundness. Initial red fruit notes tend to turn into orange peel and spice.
Food pairing: Lamb tajine with dried fruits such as apricots and prunes.
Deutz Amour de Deutz Rose 2008
No other champagne tells a better love story. The angel depicted on the label is the same that welcomes you to Deutz’s Hôtel Particulier in Aÿ, making it the perfect symbol of love on Valentine’s Day.
Pale rose color, the blend comprises 9% of red wine. Palate is fresh and delicate. Vanilla and floral notes followed by raspberry sorbet and sweet cherries. Great finesse and elegance balanced with firm structure.
Food pairing: Raspberry tart with rose sorbet.
Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Rosé 2012
If you think flowers are old school and prefer a very special bottle, we’ve got you! This bottle is adorned with the legendary Japanese white anemone flowers designed by Emile Gallé in 1902. Perrier-Jouët is closely associated with the Art Nouveau movement of the late 19th and early 20th century. It was called “Fleur de Champagne” in the US market until 2011 with the 2002 vintage. The name Belle Epoque refers to the golden era for many Champagne Houses.
Pale apricot in color as a result of the small proportion (11%) of Pinot Noir red wines. The palate is fresh and lively with a pleasant length on the finish. Fragrant aromas of pink and white flowers and red fruits such as wild strawberries.
Food pairing: Salmon tartar with citrus.
Ulysse Collin Extra Brut Rosé de Saignée Les Maillons NV
Think about the color of a beautiful bouquet of dark red roses. Then imagine this rich color as the liquid in your glass. The wine is created via the saignée method and aged for over 3 years, more than double the prescribed length of time for non-vintage champagnes. This also happens to be the number of years in which French writer, Frederic Beigbeder, measures the length of love in a favorite book of mine: L’Amour Dure Trois Ans (Love Lasts Three Years).
Wine with a large personality and character brought by the Pinot Noir, from the village of Barbonne-Fayel in the Côte de Sézanne. Full-bodied with a lot of ripe red currant and red plum notes, as well as a spice profile of cinnamon and licorice. The flavors remain on the palate for minutes, leaving you with the desire for another sip.
Food pairing: Classic French Duck a l’Orange – also called Duck Bigarade.
Laherte Freres Rosé de Meunier Extra Brut NV
The gorgeous floral packaging is sure to please on Valentine’s Day, but don’t be fooled! This is not a gimmick for lovers, but rather, a nod to the dynamic direction in which the winegrower, Aurélien Laherte, has taken the winery in the last decade.
Unusually, the wine is crafted 100% from old vine red Pinot Meunier grapes. A large proportion of the assemblage is from white wine (immediately pressed), a smaller proportion from macerated wine and lastly a bit of still red wine is added.
Fruit notes of rhubarb, orange peel, cherries and cranberry. Floral notes balanced with a pleasant structure and freshness.
Food pairing: Carpaccio of roasted Tomatoes and eggplants.
About Jean-Remi Barbier:
Born and raised in Epernay, in the heart of the Champagne region, Jean-Remi now lives in New York. He works for a renowned wine importer and develop the market in the Big Apple as well as The Hamptons, working closely with high-end restaurants, private clubs, luxury hotels, fine wine retailers and wine collectors. When he’s not working, he can be found in his kitchen – cooking, always with a glass of champagne. Connect with him on Instagram and LinkedIn
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