Looking for a great bottle of rosé Champagne for the long summer evenings? Our experts rate 99 bottles in a recent panel tasting at Decanter HQ in London. See some of the top wines below and click on the links to find full tasting notes and stockist details for the UK and US.
These wines are just as serious any other Champagne, says Michael Edwards, and the thirst for pink fizz – especially by younger drinkers – has led to huge investment in the category.
99 wines tasted
Exceptional – 0
Outstanding – 1
Highly Recommended – 8
Recommended – 58
Commended – 30
Fair – 1
Poor – 0
Faulty – 1
Michael Edwards, Simon Field MW & Xavier Rousset MS
‘Of these 99 rosé Champagnes, I would drink with pleasure all but nine or 10 of them,’ declared Xavier Rousset MS.
‘A very enjoyable tasting,’ agreed Simon Field MW – ‘both the aperitif style and the gastronomic style were in evidence, and succeeded well generally.
‘I look for energy and vivacity in rosé Champagne, and I don’t want a confected style. Very few of these were confected, partly as there is more natural ripeness at harvest time these days, so there is less need for dosage. There’s also less need to adjust with too much red wine – the fruit can speak for itself.’
Top five rosé Champagnes of the tasting:
Onion skin colour in the glass with an alluring nose of citrus and hints of honeyed autolysis. Dark fruit elements and hints of black pepper. This is complex and classy, and evidence of very skilful winemaking. There is a whisper of savoury decadence garlanding the finish.
This is expressing citric aromas supported by Provençal herbs in a manner that is charming and mature. White pepper and agrume beneath the pretty fruit, with grip and an authoritative, evocative finish.
This has a luminous, knowing hue and a honeyed nose, with a palate that descants beeswax and melon notes. It is gentle and mature but still intriguing and agreeably complex for a non-vintage wine.
A nose of orchard fruit, verbena and raspberry coulis with a pleasant creaminess. IT has been well made and finely judged with excellent balancing acidity, mid palate authority and plenty of impressive length.
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How rosé Champagne is made
There are two ways of making rosé Champagne. In the traditional method, generally 10% to 20% of Pinot Noir and or Pinot Meunier as red wine from sunny villages like Bouzy is added to the fermenting juice. The aim is to protect Champagne’s freshness and tension with red wine that is aromatic and fruit driven. The other method involves macerating the black skins in the wine until the desired colour is achieved. It’s also known as ‘saignée’ (bled), but a true saignée is quite rare: often a touch of blended Chardonnay is added to fix the colour and subdue the tannins. Of the big houses Laurent-Perrier has made a huge commercial success of its saignée Brut Rosé NV which sells at a premium price, higher than that of some superior vintages.
Pale yet vibrant
Export sales of rosé have tripled to 9.4% since 2000. Younger drinkers are attracted by a silkier, digestible style of fizz, which rosé Champagne with purer Pinot Noir fruit fits like a glove. While deep coloured rosés are still in demand (eg: Piper-Heidsieck), the trend is to paler hues yet vibrant flavours for modern cuisine, especially Asian, where Pinot feels at home.
Commitment from the big players
Economic expansion of the rosé category required the financial commitment of Champagne’s most powerful player. And it has got it in Moët & Chandon’s new winemaking centre for rosés at Gyé-sur-Seine, opened for the 2015 harvest, with a capacity to make four million bottles of rosé Champagne. The warm Aubois summers and Kimmeridgian soils help create some of Champagne’s richest Pinot Noirs. Veuve Clicquot (also in the LVMH group) will have access to the Gyé grapes, as well as its own red wine facility in Bouzy: Veuve Clicquot also has a partnership with growers in Champagne’s best villages to make exclusively red wine to meet increased demand for its pink vintages and La Grande Dame Rosé.
‘The growers are seeing riper, softer tannins, and that presents a great opportunity for rosé Champagne, particularly at the prestige level. And as winemaking methods in Champagne are improving, so is rosé. We’re not seeing overextracted styles, but real finesse. I was impressed by the balance of maturity, acidity and minerality’, commented Michael Edwards.
Vintage versus non-vintage
When it came to vintage versus non-vintage, Edwards felt that the quality ‘really showed as we moved into vintage’. However, six of the nine top scorers – including the sole Outstanding wine – were non-vintage, and so it’s clear that you don’t have to buy vintage to find real enjoyment in this category. And bear in mind, said Rousset, that if you lay these non-vintage wines down for a while, they will get even better.
The rosé premium
‘That rosé is more expensive than non-rosé Champagne – and we pay for it – makes no sense, but it seems to be accepted,’ said Rousset philosophically. ‘The premium is paid by consumers, so it is accepted by wine merchants or sommeliers. At the end of the day, it’s business, and the Champenois are doing well out of it.’