There’s nothing quite as festive as a bottle of sparkling wine. And nothing more evocative of a celebration for two than a bottle of sparkling rosé. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we guide you through a selection of pink bubbles that will make an elegant statement and also work as perfect gifts.
How is rosé sparkling wine made?
Sparkling rosé simply uses a rosé base wine that then goes through the usual steps of one of the possible methods of sparkling wine making – namely ancestral, traditional, charmat or transfer method. The base wine, in turn, is produced through one the usual rosé winemaking techniques (saignée, direct press), although some regions – such as Champagne – allow the addition of red wine to a white-dominated blend.
Looking beyond Champagne
Champagne might be the region that first springs to mind when thinking of a celebratory fizz. Indeed some pink rosés have become synonymous with romantic occasions. Billecart Salmon or Laurent-Perrier rosés are just two of a number of cuvées, ubiquitous in Valentine’s Day displays, that have acquired iconic status among lovers of pink Champagne.
Scroll down for our selection of sparkling rosé to try
But it’s well worth looking beyond the French flagship region for sparkling wines, pink or not, that deliver a different character but the same quality. Other regions and appellations producing outstanding traditional method sparkling are:
Cava – a peculiar appellation in that it is scattered across multiple regions rather than corresponding to a delimited area. Most Cava is, however, produced in Catalunya, with Sant Sadurni d’Anoia as its historical and spiritual epicentre. Cava Rosado uses the red varieties Garnacha, Monastrell, Pinot Noir and/or Trepat for colour, in addition to the other allowed white varieties.
When looking for high quality Spanish fizz you will also need to explore the wines from producers that have actually decided to leave the Cava DO. Amidst disagreements about viticulture and winemaking standards, leading names such as Raventós i Blanc, Recaredo or Gramona (the latter two being founding members of the Corpinnat group), have left the denomination and produce some of Spain’s finest bubbles under specific regional labels.
- Crémant – term referring to French traditional method sparkling wines produced outside Champagne. The main regions producing Crémants are Alsace, Bourgogne (Burgundy), Loire, and Limoux.
- Franciacorta – this north-Italian region, in the hills east of Brescia, has a somewhat short but impressive history producing traditional method sparkling, mostly from Champagne varieties. Its reputation has grown quickly, firmly establishing it as a leading sparkling wine region in Europe and the world, with some of the most renowned producers making highly sought after wines, not least outstanding rosés.
- Tasmania – the southern Australia island state produces some of the country’s best sparkling wines, with its cool climate yielding fruit of incredible finesse and balance, particularly suited for elegant, precise, age worthy fizz.
- United Kingdom – If you are looking for a proper bottle of pink fizz you don’t need to look further than the British Isles. British fizz is winning awards the world over with expressive wines marked by a very characteristic freshness. The rosés in particular show beautiful wild berry flavours brought to life by vibrant acidity.
Then there is, of course, Prosecco, which only recently made a move into pink territory. In May 2020 the Italian government approved the production of Prosecco DOC Rosé, a move ratified by the EU in November the same year. The crossing of two highly popular categories, Prosecco rosé uses Pinot Noir for colour in addition to Prosecco’s own variety, Glera. Unlike the other regions listed above, Prosecco can be made either through the Traditional or the Charmat Method.
Sparkling rosé: different and perfect for food
So is sparkling rosé different from other bubbles? Does it taste different or is it just a matter of colour?
Both varieties, blend and winemaking process play a role, making it impossible to generalise how a sparkling rose tastes, is structured and differs from a white counterpart.
Having said that there are some general characteristics you might expect from a pink fizz:
- Subtle red berry flavours, sometimes with a hint of red citrus (thing pink grapefruit or blood orange) and red orchard fruit
- A hint of tannin, imparted by mild contact with the skins during the production of the base wine, which might give it a pleasant grip and texture
- The higher degree of phenolic compounds can give it a richer body, especially if the wine has spent more time ageing on its lees (dead yeast) prior to disgorgement
Tommy Grimshaw, winemaker at Langham Wine Estate, confirms that what he mostly looks for when making his rosé is expressive Pinot-led fruit and a trademark texture. ‘My goal is to make a wine with texture, complexity and a hint of tannin that drives the front palate. With a distinct creaminess that can add weight and expressiveness.’ For him, a rosé is not simply ‘a wine you must have in your range’, it is a ‘serious wine in its own right’ especially suited for a variety of food pairings.
Aromatic generosity and textural appeal are perfect companions for a variety of dishes, not least Valentine’s Day classics such as oysters and smoked salmon. Grimshaw adds that even dishes that are tricker to pair with, such as asparagus and artichokes, can find a suitable companion in the balanced acidity of a sparkling rosé.