Despite its association with summer, rosé has been a hot topic for us recently, so we thought it was high time we put together an article that takes a closer looks at this fascinating style of Champagne.
Perhaps the most compelling factor about these Champagnes is the different methods by which they can be made – each unique and bringing something new and exciting to the wine.
Sadly, the proliferation of cheap and cheerful sparkling rosé has given it a bit of an image problem; a travesty given the great advances in production which have elevated rosé wines to new heights in recent years.
Be it the delightful freshness of blending, or the rich vinosity of macerated or saignée rosé, they are serious wines worthy of serious contemplation.
Developed back in 1818 by Madame Clicquot Ponsardin, this technique simply involves adding a small amount of red wine into the mix. It is the most common way to produce rosé Champagne as it allows the winemaker to create a consistent colour and flavour profile. It's also the method employed by, perhaps the most famous rosé Champagne of all, Laurent Perrier Rosé. Typically, rosés created in this way tend to be lighter in structure.
One of our favourite grower rosé blends is A. Levasseur Extrait Gourmand Rosé Brut.
50% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay, and 20% Pinot Noir – 14% of which is vinified as still red (Coteaux Champenois) and blended in. The wine presents as a pale pink with a sweet nose full of stewed strawberries and black pepper. The palate is creamy with a wonderful level of lift on the mid and a finish that perfectly balances stewed blackcurrant with cream and cherry.
Saignée & Maceration
Whilst these are two distinct techniques, winemakers increasingly use the term 'saignée' (from the French for ‘bleeding’) to describe wines that are, truth be told, made through maceration.
True saignée Champagne production is actually a by-product of making red wine, where a portion of the paler juice is bled off early in fermentation and it’s a technique that dates back centuries before rosé was even invented. Before Dom Pierre Perignon arrived to clean up winemaking processes, the vintners of Champagne found themselves unable to compete with the richer reds from their southerly neighbours in Burgundy. Rather than fight a losing battle they attempted to make white wines from the black grape varieties. However, lacking the expertise and technical knowhow, meant that the clear juice was always slightly tainted with the skin contact of the grape being pressed. This came to be known as Oeil de Perdrix or ‘Partridge eye’ for its tinge of orange red – an expression that is still used today to represent rosés that have a delicate pink tint.
Maceration on the other hand is far more commonplace. It involves resting the grape juice in contact with the skins to pick up colour; this could be for just a few hours to a week or more! Wines made this way can demonstrate a plethora of flavour profiles, from creamy, fruity and pert, to rich and textured and everything in between. Due to the 'buzz' around saignée presently, you often find a wine with saignée on the label is, in fact, created using maceration.
Two of our top picks for wines made by saignée/maceration are Bertrand Delespierre Saignee des Terres Amouresses and Rémi Leroy Saignee Les Crots 2015.
Despite their names, both employ maceration to achieve fabulously vinous styles, that are rich and powerful enough to pair well with cold meat cuts and cheese boards.
Prepare a meal. Pick one up. Enjoy! These wines deserve more than a sunny afternoon in the garden.