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Rosé Champagne - How to Find the One You Love, part 1

Jiles Halling

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Amazingly, it's only just over a month until Valentine's Day and that will inevitably mean that lots of pink champagne will be bought and enjoyed. Over the past few years, demand for the pink stuff has just gone through the roof. Nowadays just about every champagne maker offers a pink champagne as part of their range, so there’s no shortage to choose from, but how on earth do you go about choosing one rather than another?

Here are some timely tips to help you find the ones you like best. The first thing to tell you is that pink champagne and rosé champagne are the same – just two different words for the same thing. So sometimes I’ll write rosé and sometimes I might put pink instead. Next, did you know that rosé champagne can be made in two different ways, giving two very different results? It’s not a question of one being ‘better’ than the other, they’re just different.

To explain, let me start by telling you how still red and rosé wines are made... Still red wines and still rosé wines are made by pressing black grapes and then letting the skins soak in the juice. The colour in the skins slowly seeps into the juice turning it darker and darker over time. If you leave the skins in the juice for only a few hours, you’ll get just a touch of pink colour in the wine.

If you leave them soaking in the juice for a lot longer, you’ll end up with a really dark red, almost black wine. If you make rosé champagne in this way it’s called ‘Rosé de Saignée’ (pronounced senyay which means to bleed, in French – the colour from the black grapes ‘bleeds’ into the juice).

It’s really tricky to get this process just right. Unless you know exactly what you’re doing you can leave the grapes the grapes too long in the juice and end up with too much colour and worse, an unpleasant bitter taste in the wine that comes from the skins and stalks – not what you want at all! When you get it right, mind you, you’ll end up with a lovely, rich-coloured rosé champagne, full of those luscious red fruit flavours that you can find in good red wines: raspberries, cherries and blackcurrants with none of that bitterness. Laurent Perrier Rosé is made like this, so that gives you a benchmark, but there are many others to choose from. A favourite of mine is Soutiran Rosé Grand Cru.

It's not only a rosé de saignée, it's made entirely with Pinot Noir grapes and has absolutely bags of colour and flavour plus, of course, it's a Grand Cru which is always a good indicator of quality. Not everyone likes this style. Some people find rosé de saignée just too fruity and ‘full-on’, but if you’re tempted to try some then next time you’re about to buy a bottle of rosé champagne make sure to ask your wine retailer if it’s a rosé de saignée.

He/she should be able to tell you. By the way, big, bold rosé champagne like this goes really well with a whole range of foods, even quite strong-flavoured red meats that you’d probably never think of eating with champagne.Try a rosé de saignée with pigeon, or duck, or lamb – it’s terrrific and also that little bit special!

Next up is ‘Rosé d’Assemblage’ which is by far the more common way to make pink champagne and I'll explain more about that in another blog post tomorrow, so watch this space and... Stay Bubbly Jiles

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