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

Robuchon dies after long illness

Very sad to hear the news (yesterday) that celebrated chef and restaurateur Joël Robuchon has died after a long battle with cancer. He’s the man whose restaurants have been awarded more Michelin stars than anyone else – they hold 23 round the world currently. I have been lucky enough to meet him, and eat his sublime food, twice in the past five years, on both occasions at Veuve Clicquot’s ‘Hotel du Marc’ in Reims.

Joël Robuchon at Clicquot’s Hotel du Marc in Reims
Joël Robuchon at Clicquot’s Hotel du Marc in Reims

The first occasion was in March 2013 where after an extraordinary lunch, I sat with him on the sofa and he modestly talked me through the recipe for arguably his most famous dish, pomme purée truffée (Robuchon lunch produces magical combinations ).

I saw him again in March this year when Veuve Clicquot ran a week-long celebration of rosé to mark the creation of what the house calls “the world’s first blended rosé champagne”. This happened in 1818 when Madame Clicquot broke with the established tradition of using a ‘Teinture de Fismes’ – a preparation of elderberries boiled in cream of tartar – to make pink champagne, instead choosing to blend some Bouzy red wine with her classic white champagne, so initiating the modern method of rosé champagne production.

After a morning masterclass at Clicquot’s Hotel du Marc in Reims, with head winemaker Dominique Demarville showing examples of the red wine blending options Clicquot has for non-vintage rosé, vintage rosé and La Grande Dame rosé, we sat down to a lunch specially prepared by Joël Robuchon and his team to match Clicquot wines, including the current La Grande Dame Vintage Rosé 2006.

Clicquot’s head winemaker Dominique Demarville with Joël Robuchon

This is a wine of great complexity which evolved gracefully, never disappointing, through a series of Robuchon dishes including an artichoke and foie gras salad, which looked wonderful (see picture) and, unlikely as it sounds, seemed the perfect match for this wine. A dish I will remember for a long time. The man at the stove knows what he is doing.

Artichoke and foie gras salad

Robuchon’s finishing masterstroke was to marry a simple, but not that simple, blanchette de veau with superb 1955 magnums of Bouzy Rouge which Demarville said came from one of the three best vintages of the 20th century, the other two being ‘47 and ’90. His creative genius will be sadly missed.

Canard-Duchêne celebrates 150th anniversary and launches new prestige Cuvée V

Alain Thiénot raises a glass of Cuvée Léonie to 15 years of work at Canard-Duchêne

Last month Canard-Duchêne hosted guests from around the world in Ludes to celebrate the house’s 150th anniversary. It has been 15 years since Alain Thiénot bought the house from LVMH, where it was run in a sub group in conjunction with Veuve Clicquot, which took precedence. As Thiénot himself noted in his short speech, he made the purchase from Clicquot on the advice of Yves Bénard, former CEO of Moët & Chandon and at that time [2003] President of the Union des Maisons de Champagne (UMC), who was among the leading figures from Champagne present at the gala dinner in Ludes.

Chef de Cave Laurent Fédou has worked with Alain Thiénot for 30 years

Bénard suggested it was a way of adding weight to his embryonic champagne empire, then based on the eponymous Alain Thiénot brand, first created in 1985 using his knowledge and contacts gained as a courtier. He knew something of the house already as he had worked for Victor Canard, grandson of the founder, in his time as a courtier. “In 2003, Canard was selling around 2.3m bottles,” Thiénot says, “today we are close to producing 4m bottles.” His first move was to install as winemaker Laurent Fédou, who has now been working for him for 30 years and is still the Canard chef de cave today.

The gala dinner, held in the gardens of the Canard-Duchêne estate in Ludes, was part of a week-long celebration masterminded by Cathryn Boudiak, international brand director of the house, who took over running the operation in 2017 following the departure of Alexis Petits-Gats. Guests were greeted with a glass of Cuvée Léonie (named after joint founder Léonie Duchêne) from magnum.

Cathryn Boudiak, international brand director of the house

This blend of mainly black fruit (50% Pinot Noir/30% Meunier) livened with a splash of well-sourced Chardonnay, has been transformed over the years by Fédou into a serious wine. Extra bottle age, the current blend is based on the 2014 harvest, a reserve wine element that has grown to around 40%, plus some judicious use of oak aged juice – just 3 or 4% aged, but not fermented in Argonne oak from the region – all play their part. Fresh, seductive and elegant it also shows a very attractive maturity and real depth.

After some high-wire entertainment, the dinner itself was created by Arnaud Lallement of L’Assiette Champenoise and served with the current, impressively rich 2008 Canard-Duchêne vintage (mellow, ripe and generous with Pinot Noir to the fore) plus the Blanc de Blancs and Blancs de Noirs form the Charles VII range, all in magnum.

Cuvée V, especially created to celebrate the 150th anniversary

Centre stage was taken mid-meal by the inaugural release of Cuvée V, especially created to celebrate the 150th anniversary and served with lobster. This new prestige cuvée, an ongoing addition to the Canard-Duchêne range, is from the 2010 vintage. It’s an assemblage of 56% Pinot Noir, 34% Chardonnay and 8% Pinot Meunier, that’s Extra Brut in style (4.5gm/l dosage).

Still quite tight and fresh with grand cru Chardonnay from Chouilly giving a linear core, there’s just a hint of tropical fruit, pineapple and mango which Fédou says will develop with age. The structure comes from Ambonnay and Aÿ Pinot Noir. It’s a wine only just starting to show its colours and has a long future ahead. An apt demonstration of the transformation in quality that Thiénot and Fédou have achieved with Canard-Duchêne champagne over the past 15 years.

Richard Geoffroy retires after 28 years as Dom Pérignon winemaker

Yesterday morning, the peace and tranquillity of the quiet, pretty village of Hautvillers was broken as a cavalcade of 17 black Mercedes people-carriers from Paris swept into town. The occasion was a momentous one for this, the Champagne cru most closely associated with Dom Pérignon; a change of winemaker and the launch of a great vintage.

After 28 harvests in charge and the release, so far, of 14 white vintages and 11 rosés he has made, Dom Pérignon’s chef de cave Richard Geoffroy is Continue reading “Richard Geoffroy retires after 28 years as Dom Pérignon winemaker”

Hunting the right pink to combat the miserable weather

The fact that I’m not generally a huge fan of rosé champagne is borne out by the lack of pink fizz in my own cellar. Given a choice the same money will mostly buy you a far more interesting bottle of vintage champagne, in my view. I’m particularly attracted to the more winey, Burgundy style Pinot Noir driven pinks that age attractively and work surprisingly well with food, particularly things like duck or pigeon.

In this camp I’d include Veuve Clicquot vintage rosés, particularly the Cave Privée range, examples of which I Continue reading “Hunting the right pink to combat the miserable weather”

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”

Whose champagne is Majestic enough?

Which champagne should you be opening to toast The Queen’s 91st birthday? It seems only certain, particular fizzes get past the palace gates. In order to supply HM The Queen, you have to be a Royal Warrant Holder and currently there are nine houses that have that privilege. But there may be different corks popping at Highgrove and Clarence House, as out of the nine, only one — Laurent-Perrier — is officially ‘by appointment to HRH The Prince of Wales’.

What they are drinking over at Kensington Palace is Continue reading “Whose champagne is Majestic enough?”