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, BBR.com £65, Selfridges, £62.99 a bottle.