Rosé Champagne: Blending Lessons from Veuve Clicquot

Rose champagneRosé Champagne is more popular than ever these days.    In preparing for this holiday season, the International Wine Review is issuing a special report focusing on rosé Champagne and sparkling wine.  The report will be a follow-up to our Report #34 Champagne Revisited    and will provide an in-depth examination of all aspects of rosé Champagne including recommendations on food pairing.

Rosé Champagnes can be produced in either a vintage or a non-vintage style, and the character of the wines can range from fun, romantic and slightly frivolous to savory, rich and complex.  Rosé Champagnes are among some of the most substantial Champagnes and can be successfully paired with rich foods from grilled tuna to roast duck to even roast lamb. In our special report we will offer recommendations for pairing rose Champagne with dishes—even fine Indian food!

The crafting of rosé Champagne follows much the same méthode champenoise as does blanc Champagne with some important differences.   In blanc Champagnes the grapes  are delicately pressed to avoid the extraction of phenolics from the skins, seeds and stems resulting in the production of  a neutral base wine.  In rosé Champagnes  the goal is to achieve color and flavor by allowing the wine to stay in contact with the red skins  (of Pinot Noir/Pinot Meunier ) for a while (the saignée method) or by adding in 10 to 15% red still wine to the cuvée.

The color is not the only difference in rosé Champagne.  The aroma is also greatly changed. While the aromatic range of blanc Champagnes goes from citrus to apple, pear, and pineapple, rosé Champagnes tend to be much more focused on red berry fruit: strawberry, wild strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and red currant. The texture of rosé Champagne is also quite different – it gives much more of a wine-like impression and can approach a Pinot Noir from Burgundy in weight, balance and length.

Pierre Casenave (center) with Don Winkler (l) and Mike Potashnik (r)

Pierre Casenave (center) with Don Winkler (l) and Mike Potashnik (r)

Veuve Clicquot, the iconic Champagne producer, recently held a rosé Champagne component tasting seminar  here in Washington, DC, conducted by winemaker Pierre Casenave.  As Pierre  explained,  making rosé Champagne at Veuve Clicquot consists of a complex blending process of red wines sourced from many different Grand Cru vineyards. The seminar presented four red wine components of the 2012 vintage from Veuve Clicquot vineyards in Aÿ, Verzy, Bouzy and Clos Colin.  Each of these plays a part in the blends to achieve the desired color, flavor and texture of rosé Champagnes.  For example, the red wine of Aÿ offers fresh clean fruit with interesting minerality and no aggressivity, while the red wine of Bouzy provides a fruity elegant, even Beaujolais-like aroma with ripe and gentle tannins and fresh acidity.  The red wine of Clos Colin, a parcel within Bouzy, is elegant and refined with great acidity and freshness.

Veuve Clicquot produces three delicious rosés from Grands Crus and Premier Cru vineyards: Non-Vintage Rosé, Vintage Rosé and the La Grande Dame Rosé:

veuveThe Non-Vintage Rosé is lively, fruit rich  and mouth filling offering fresh flavors of strawberry and raspberry and hints of almonds and brioche.  It is based on Vueve Clicquot’s Brut Yellow Label traditional blend of 50 to 55% Pinot Noir, 15 to 20% Pinot Meunier and 28 to 33% Chardonnay and has a high percentage of reserve wines.  The blend is completed with 12% of red wines.   The Vintage Rosé 2004 is a blend of 62% Pinot Noir, 8% Pinot Menuier and 30% Chardonnay with 15% red wine sourced from Bouzy.  The 2004 vintage is rich and refined with aromas of red berries and hints of dried fruit.  While just beginning its evolution, it shows levels of complex flavors and overall elegance.   La Grande Dame Rosé 2004  is Vueve Clicquot’s top cuvee and is an extraordinary Champagne of great elegance and refinement, rich, autolytic and complex.  A blend of 61% Pinot Noir and 39% Chardonnay, it also includes 15% of red wine from Clos Coline, one of the best plots in the Bouzy vineyard.  It is a superb Champagne and among the finest of the luxury Champagnes made in France today.

These Champagnes and many others will be featured in our upcoming Special Report on Sparkling Rosés.    Stay tuned.

Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler                                                                                                      October 2013



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