Champagne shipments soared in 2021, showing a remarkable uplift from the depths of a difficult 2020, which saw sales dramatically hit by the pandemic. It has been reported that overall shipments in 2021 increased 31.8% compared to 2020, and 8.2% compared to 2019.
Reports also show that the rosé Champagne category in particular continues to grow, with the thirst particularly apparent in the UK. This pretty pink sparkling wine is seen as a premium beverage and there are many serious examples worth seeking out.
Rosé Champagnes can be more expensive than their white counterparts. This is largely because production quantities are lower and the additional production costs of high quality, still red wine pushes up prices.
Rosé on the rise
While non-vintage rosé Champagne is still a popular choice with consumers, Jan Konetzki, consultant sommelier and director of wine at the Four Seasons, notes that vintage and prestige cuvée rosé Champagnes are gaining traction among consumers, particularly in restaurants.
It’s easy to see why, as many of the best examples can work brilliantly at the dinner table – whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not.
The list below features rosé Champagnes reviewed by our experts and available at a range of prices, with some great value options under £30 to more expensive choices over £300 a bottle.
How rosé Champagne is made
There are two ways to achieve the pink hue of rosé Champagne: rosé d’assemblage or saignée.
Andy Howard MW says that rosé Champagne is an anomaly in terms of winemaking rules. It is the only area where the blending of red and white wine is permitted for the production of rosé wines. This is the rosé d’assemblage method and it is common across quality levels.
A small amount of red wine made from Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier is added to the wine prior to its second fermentation to give it a pink colour.
The percentage of red wine added at this stage depends on the producer’s preference and can vary from 5% to 15% or above.
The aim is to ensure that the freshness and tension of the Champagne is maintained. Carine Bailleul, chef de cave at Champagne Castelnau, says her goal is ‘to have a fine balance between fruitiness, sweetness, colour and acidity’.
It goes without saying, therefore, that the red wine added should be of high quality. It not only contributes colour to the finished Champagne, but also flavour and texture.
The saignée method involves bleeding off the pink-tinged juice from macerating red grapes.
Louis Roederer uses a version of this technique alongside cold maceration to make Cristal rosé, for instance.
The Fleur de Miraval rosé Champagne uses the saignée method, blended with top Chardonnay, according to winemaker Rodolphe Péters, who worked on the project alongside Brad Pitt and the Perrin family.
For more information on rosé Champagne, read Andy Howard MW’s 30 top rosé Champagnes
How rosé Champagne tastes
Styles can vary depending on winemaking decisions, yet many wines will have noticeable red fruit character in the glass.
In more complex styles, including vintage rosé, you might find this balanced with the traditional autolytic flavours of Champagne, such as brioche or bread-like aromas, associated with ageing on lees.
Rosé Champagne is versatile when it comes to food pairing. Styles with more richness can stand up to bigger flavours and richer foods, while the more delicate, fruit-driven fizzes make for a stylish aperitif. Sweeter styles such as demi-sec are a great match for fruit-forward desserts.
Konetzki recommends ‘a colossal, Pinot Noir-heavy prestige cuvée like Bollinger La Grande Année Rosé with Peking duck’, which is served at the Mei Ume restaurant. The plum sauce in the dish matches the sweet plummy flavours in the wine.
He suggests a beetroot Wellington with something like the Philipponnat Clos des Goisses Juste Rosé. The pastry-rich, fruity, earthy flavours in the wine pair perfectly with the sweet, earthy beetroot.
Or for extra glamour, add some preserved black truffles into the dish and try it with a 20-year-old vintage rosé Champagne for a superb – yet fairly pricey – match.
Champagne Castelnau’s Rosé Brut NV spends three years on lees and shows just a touch of smoky complexity. Paired with spiced, crispy lamb shoulder or aubergine, the fruit sweetness in the wine complements the caramelised nature of the dish and the wine’s acidity enhances the fragrant spices.
Rosé Champagnes to try for Valentine’s Day:
The following wines have been tasted and scored by Decanter’s experts.