Pink Champagne for Valentine’s & Mothers’ Day

It’s not so long ago that pink champagne consumption moved up and down like a yoyo as it drifted in and out of fashion. After a couple of years of sales growth, consumer interest would fall away and this discouraged producers from taking the category seriously and making the necessary investment in pink production. Quality was distinctly variable. It’s hard to pin down the specific catalyst for change, but generally warmer summers in France’s most northerly vineyard certainly played an important part. You need ripe black fruit, Pinot Noir or Meunier, to make good rosé, the vast majority of which is elaborated by blending red wine with white champagne.

Good vintaged rosé champagne was possible in those one off sunny vintages, but few producers large or small were set up to make a consistently good non-vintage pink fizz, year after year. For at least a couple of decades Laurent-Perrier had the quality non-vintage rosé market all to itself.

It has changed radically now as nearly every producer in Champagne makes a non-vintage rosé style. Pol Roger and Louis Roederer are two of the very few recognised names that don’t. Most houses have invested heavily behind the category, designating specific high quality vineyard for red wine production, lowering yields and taking other steps to encourage higher ripeness levels. Red wine-making kit that in the past you’d only have seen some 200 kilometres further south in Burgundy, has been installed in many of Champagne’s wineries.

The general quality and consistency of non-vintage pink champagne has taken a huge step forward, since the early nineties, even since the start of the Millennium. But styles and the colour of pink champagne vary hugely from producer to producer, moving from barely coloured, aperitif style Chardonnay-led fizz to something more vinous, dominated by red-berry aromas and flavours, even black fruit. Hues varying from the barely coloured ‘partridge eye’, to a Beaujolais or Loire red.

With pink fizz in mind on Valentine’s Day and Mothering Sunday only just round the corner, we take a look at some stars of the rosé champagne scene, worthy of such a celebration. If you come home with a bottle of rosé champagne today, it needs to be something classy, not a bottle you can find on any supermarket shelf, however decent the quality of that may now be.

Happily there are now quite a few possibilities to fill this role, and prices, though generally high compared to their white counterparts, are not (mostly) financially crippling. I’ve picked some non-vintage pinks sure to impress and all the right side of £70 a bottle.

Philipponnat Brut Réserve Rosé, Selfridges £29.99 a half bottle.

Berry Bros & Rudd Grand Cru Rosé by Marguet, £33 a bottle.

Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve, Fortnum & Mason, £63.50 down to £57.15 a bottle.

Bruno Paillard Brut Reserve Première Cru, Selfridges, £56.99 a bottle.

Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé, £65, Selfridges, £62.99 a bottle.

Moët & Chandon Brut Grand Vintage 2008

In a previous interview with Benoït Gouez, the chef de cave at Moët & Chandon, when I asked about the, as yet unreleased Moët vintages in the Epernay cellars, he expressed a strong preference for 2009 over the much more acidic 2008. Two years on, at a time when many other major producers have released their 2008s, how does it compare with the previous ample and forward 2006 vintage?

Moet & Chandon chef de cave Benoit Gouez
Moet & Chandon chef de cave Benoit Gouez

It’s much tighter and fresher, as Gouez himself says, it very much majors on a bright, grapefruit-lifted, zestiness, more linear than either the 2006 or 2004 that preceded it. But with time in the glass a distinctive, almost exotic cinnamon spiciness appears. What is immediately appealing is the tang of refreshing acidity. However, this is a wine that really needs more time in bottle to reach anything like its true potential and at this Continue reading “Moët & Chandon Brut Grand Vintage 2008”

Harder to find decent fizz under £15, but Lidl £3.99 halves decent

Tasting the two cheapest offerings at Sainsbury’s and Tesco last week –Bissinger half bottleLouis Delaunay and Antoine de Clevecy – was not the most exciting experience. As the pound now buys rather less today, post-Brexit, it’s even harder for the large UK retailers to find champagne worthy of the name at much under £15 a bottle. If you want excitement in your glass of fizz, you have to pay more than this and probably look beyond most of the grocers to find it. But Lidl has some half bottles Bissinger Brut NV at just £3.99 a half bottle from yesterday (18 November) which is certainly quite an improvement of the above two offerings.

The best wine I’ve had at under £15 a bottle recently is De Telmont’s generously rich, characterful Grande Réserve Brut, currently ridiculously cheaply priced at just £14.99 in Majestic (Mix Six price). Wines from some of the best co-ops, like Le Mesnil, or growers’ champagnes are worth seeking out, look at the updated Merchant Offers for some suggestions.

Tesco cuts single bottle price to £9 for three days

The battle for customers continues among the grocers, with Tesco Louis Delaunay Champagne (002)introducing new offers on Tuesday (8 November) including GH Mumm at £20 and Lanson Rosé for £25 and this morning (10 November) it cut the price of its exclusive label Louis Delaunay Brut to just £9 a bottle for three days until Saturday (12 November) or while stocks last. The quality of this Continue reading “Tesco cuts single bottle price to £9 for three days”

Try something different or bag a top-flight bargain

Waitrose has by some way the widest selection of sparkling wines and champagnes among the main UK grocers and has introduced some further exciting lines recently, mostly only available through its on-line Waitrose Cellar operation which runs to 63 different champagnes. While the current 25% off promotion is running — until next Tuesday 8 November — this is a great opportunity to try some of these at a bargain price. In addition, there are some attractive deals on some prestigious names, rarely Continue reading “Try something different or bag a top-flight bargain”

Gosset Celebris tasting: 1988 to 2004

Gosset glass launch pic BOver the years I’ve come to like the champagnes made by Gosset more and more. As Didier Gimonnet said to me on a recent visit to Cuis, producers should be judged on the quality of their whole range, not merely on one super-charged cuvée that they produce in minute quantities, as he suggested some commentators are apt to do. But as with the excellent Gimonnet wines, I’d be very happy drinking any Gosset champagnes, Continue reading “Gosset Celebris tasting: 1988 to 2004”

Price war hots up as 25% off deals kick in

As predicted in these pages, the discounting is seriously hotting up in November. While Tesco was first out of the blocks in the last week of October, starting tomorrow (2 November) both Waitrose and Sainsbury’s are introducing new 25% off deals. And joining in the fun, Majestic is offering a 25% discount on everything in its range priced under £100 a Continue reading “Price war hots up as 25% off deals kick in”