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.

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”

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 Continue reading “Pink Champagne for Valentine’s & Mothers’ Day”

Veuve Clicquot launches ’08 vintage on the Côte de Nuits

Started last week in Burgundy at Clos des Lambrays in Morey-Saint-Denis c/o Veuve Clicquot, for the launch of their 2008 Vintage Réserve. Clicquot never likes to do anything by halves, witness the event they organised in June 2014 around burying 300 bottles and 50 magnums on the Baltic seabed to test how champagne ages there;

Continue reading “Veuve Clicquot launches ’08 vintage on the Côte de Nuits”

Five reasons to drink champagne (as if you need encouraging)

Found this report in the Daily Telegraph online which claims to have discovered five ‘health-benefits’ from drinking champagne. While readers of this blog will need no encouragement to open a bottle of fizz (and we all know champagne is good for the soul), I feel it deserves closer examination.

Apparently drinking champagne will ‘improve your memory’, or at least Continue reading “Five reasons to drink champagne (as if you need encouraging)”

Winemaker Richard Geoffroy on Dom Perignon rosé

When Dom Pérignon launches a new vintage, winemaker Richard Geoffroy likes to bring along some other bottles so you can compare and contrast. When I met up with him last month, as well as the soon to be released 2005 vintage, we tried again the so called ‘P2’ 1998 Dom Pérignon, the second release of DP that comes onto the market after further lees ageing (typically another 8 to 10 years) and now really showing its considerable class. We also looked at the latest Rosé release, the 2004, comparing that with the ‘P2’ pink from 1995, fast becoming my favourite vintage of that decade and these days regularly outclassing most ‘96s.

This was a great chance to look at how pink DP develops and evolves and in this short video I ask Richard to talk about the two rosés and their differences.