Ten pink champagnes to delight (and fit different budgets)

Pink champagne ticks all the boxes. It looks great in the glass, it is softer and often more generously fruity than white champagne, making it more approachable for those that dislike champagne’s inherent acidity. It elevates an ordinary occasion into something special. And many feel that, when it comes to Valentine’s Day, it’s a must.

Pink champagnes tend to be more expensive than their white counterparts, sometimes, and notably in the case of a handful of prestige cuvées, far more expensive. But we’ve selected a few at different price points that score well in terms of the quality to price ratio, plus a couple of extravagant choices: well it is for your Valentine.

Non-vintage rosés
Under £25:
Canard-Duchêne Léonie Brut Rosé NV, £24.11 (down 20% from £30.14 until 14/2/2019). Usually just available to the restaurant trade, this mainly black-fruit blend (50% Pinot Noir, 25% Pinot Meunier, 25% Chardonnay) is an attractive coppery pink with extra depth from longer ageing and a hint of spice.

Under £35:
Thiénot Brut Rosé NV, £34.96 (down 20% from £43.70 until 14/2/2019). Beautifully fresh this elegant pink (45% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier) shows attractive raspberry and black cherry fruit with a creamy palate and good length, helped by four years lees ageing.

Under £45:
Pierre Paillard Grand Cru (Bouzy) ‘Les Terres Roses’ Rosé
Tasted yesterday (at the Bancroft Wines trade event) with Quentin Paillard, who runs this grower-producer based in the Grand Cru of Bouzy with his brother Antoine and father Benoît, this is one of the best pink champagnes I have tried for a long time. Very pale, in fact hardly pink at all, this is a two-thirds Chardonnay, one third Pinot Noir blend made, as most pink champagnes are, by the addition of a little red wine, in this case 6% Bouzy Rouge from one particular plot they have in the village, where all their vineyards are located, called Clos Pierre Pillar. It has lovely balance and energy, improving at every sip. With 2gm/l dosage it’s Extra Brut in style.
£41.45, http://www.mumblesfinewines.co.uk/champagne/517-pierre-paillard-grand-cru-brut-rose-champagne.html

Drappier Brut Rosé
What surprises me most about this pink I particularly favour, is that more retailers don’t stock it. Unusually it’s made by the saignée method, with the lovely colour literally bled off the skins of the black Pinot Noir grapes it is entirely produced from. Richly fruity and Burgundian in style, you can tell it’s Pinot – this southerly part of the Champagne vineyard is closer to Chablis than it is to Reims – Michel Drappier actually blends in about 10% Pinot vinified as white wine to give it a refreshing lift.
£42.99 Tivoli Wines, https://www.tivoliwines.co.uk/drappier-rose-brut-nv

Philipponnat Brut Royal Réserve Rosé
The Philipponnat wines impress across the range from Royal Réserve Brut right up to Clos des Goisses. A self-proclaimed Pinot Noir specialist based in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ where the Philipponnat descendants date back to 1522, the rosé is three quarters Pinot Noir from close by the house with reserve wines and some wood ageing adding complexity, depth and interest. Savoury wines with real vinosity that are good with food.
£44.95, The Whisky Exchange.

Under £55:
Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royal Brut Rosé NV
I tasted this yesterday (12/2/2019) at the Bancroft Wines trade event with Jean-Claude Fourmon’s son Benjamin, who has just taken over running the business. Based on the 2013 harvest and served in magnum, it has that extra bit of class and pizzazz that such a format always seems to bring with bright cherry fruit and some richness on the palate. (65% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Meunier, with the 12% of red wine in the blend usually coming from Cumières).
£48 (75cl), Harrods

Under £65:
Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve NV
This will probably be the pink that comes out in this household and not just because it’s there resting in the cellar. Like its Brut Réserve partner, it’s a hot favourite here. Lovely fruit expression, but it’s the silky palate depth that I yearn for.
£55, Amazon; £59.99 Tivoli Wines; £65, Fortnum and Mason

Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé
This is another classy option that’s also available chez moi, but may be saved to savour in the garden once the weather brightens up. It’s delicate with beautifully defined red fruit aromas, lovely freshness and creamy texture and it bears a little extra cellaring if you want something slightly more evolved.
£58.15 The Whisky Exchange; £63.99, Selfridges,

Vintage Rosé
Under £75:
Louis Roederer Vintage Rosé 2012
A top class pink all made from Roederer’s own vineyard fruit and a blend of 63% Pinot Noir to 37% Chardonnay. A vintage with lovely balance, that’s already attractively approachable but only at the very start of a long drinking window and will evolve, gathering complexity, for at least a decade.
£65.95, TheFinestBubble.com (2-hour delivery in London available)

Under £85:
Charles Heidsieck Millésime Rosé 2006
This pink gets lovelier with age. I adored the 1999 vintage which stayed in the market for several years (you might still be able to find it) and just got better and better, creamier and creamier, with more time on the cork. TFB also has the riper 2005 (at £99.95) and maybe that’s better for drinking now.
£84.99, TheFinestBubble.com (2-hour delivery in London available)

Over £200:

Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame Rosé 2006
This is here because it was arguably the luxury pink fizz I most enjoyed drinking in the whole of 2018. I admit this was helped in no small way by being accompanied by the devine food of the late Joel Robuchon, but while that may have swayed me, I stand by the judgement. Any champagne that changes and evolves as expressively as this, delighting in a different way at every sip, is something special.
£240, www.Clos19

Over £300:
Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Alexandra Rosé 2004
Laurent-Perrier’s Brut Rosé is the pink champagne that kicked off interest in the category and is a widely available, decently made pink fizz. This is its prestige cousin, initially produced for LP maestro Bernard de Nonancourt to celebrate one of his daughters’ (not Stéphanie) weddings. Quite a gift. On my week-long tour of Champagne last November, it was the last wine I tasted at Laurent-Perrier and I left for home with a lovely memory of its warmth, savouriness and complexity, in the taxi ride back to Reims station. It’s not cheap, but it is fine.
£325, Selfridges

Revisiting an old favourite

Franck Bonville Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc Avize

Olivier Bonville winemaker at Franck Bonville In Avize

I’ve been to see Olivier Bonville, the winemaker at Franck Bonville in Avize several times over the course of many years. While I’ve always liked his wines, I hadn’t come across them recently. But a good friend produced a bottle of Avize Grand Cru Blancs de Blancs as a delightful prelude to Sunday lunch, the other day. I was so impressed Continue reading “Revisiting an old favourite”

Message in a bottle

One of the main reasons that champagne houses covet working with the leading airlines is they like the exposure for their brands. They want to be seen as the preferred pour in the first or business class cabin. Partly because this is an affluent audience that’s difficult to reach, they will even agree relatively unprofitable deals to get the listing, though of course they are at pains to deny this.

But they know there is a large potential downside to this exposure. Will the cabin staff pour the champagne in front of the customer, thus showing Continue reading “Message in a bottle”

Vintage champagne that hits the spot

Nipping out for a last-minute bottle of fizz to celebrate the end of 2017 and welcome in the New Year? If it’s something vintage you are after that’s drinking superbly well now, then Waitrose Brut 2005, the wine I finished my recent WSET tasting with, is very hard to beat. Made Continue reading “Vintage champagne that hits the spot”

Still places available at my WSET tasting

Next week I’m doing another Champagne tasting at the London HQ of the Wine & Spirt Education Trust (WSET). This time, with purchases for Christmas and the New Year partly in mind, I’m concentrating on pointing people in the direction of some great champagnes from slightly less known producers, which match or better some of the wines made by the big names. And partly as a result of being less well known, your money goes a lot further in terms of getting more exciting wine.

There are eight different producers involved, four growers and four co-operatives. We start with a fine pair of contrasting Continue reading “Still places available at my WSET tasting”

In praise of half bottles’ faster maturing

Too few restaurants offer a decent selection of half bottles on their wine lists, though the trend towards listing a number of wines served in 25 and 50cl carafes, now seen in many more casual dining establishments, is to be applauded. Half bottles of champagne are particularly handy, especially if there’s two of you and you plan to have some wine too. Just a glass of good fizz is rarely enough.

While quite a few champagne houses now seem reluctant to produce half bottles, citing quality issues and the fact that they mature more quickly, I see that (speed of development) as an advantage in certain instances. A half bottle of Krug is a welcome Continue reading “In praise of half bottles’ faster maturing”

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”