All About Sparkling Rosé
For a long time sparkling wine, Champagne in particular, was considered an expensive, rare and special treat. And, Rosé Champagne considered an even more exclusive tipple. Today, thanks to the proliferation of non-Champagne sparkling wines at lower prices, sparkling wine can be justified to mark even the most modest occasion.
Last week, I described the traditional method for making rosé wines as 'maceration", whereby the black grapes macerate for just enough time to gain the desired pink hue. In contrast, the traditional method for making rosé Champagne and sparkling wine has been to add a small portion (about 10-15%) of still red wine to the blend before the second fermentation. In still wines, this 'blending' method is considered inferior, and in fact in Europe is not permitted for appellation wines. Interestingly, the EU commissioner has proposed changing the rules to allow rosé wines in the EU to be made by adding red wine. Not surprisingly, the French, the great protectors of rosé wine, are up in arms, and so far have managed to stall progress on the new proposal.
In recent years, many Champagne houses, and producers of traditional method sparkling wines have started to use the maceration method for their rosé wines. While straightforward when making still wine, it is more challenging with sparkling, as it is harder to get the same consistent hue, when working with smaller vats and, bottle fermented wines.
As most European sparkling wine regions permit black as well as white grapes in their respective appellations, rosé wines fall easily within the regulations. The anomaly is Prosecco. Prosecco is actually a white grape variety, so technically 'Pink Prosecco' cannot exist. But it does. The Prosecco DOC area of Conegliano Valdobbiadene does not allow for any black grapes in the blend. However, there are lots of non-DOC Prosecco wines produced, that in fact are blended with other varieties including black ones.
But if it tastes good, do we really care whether it is DOC or not? My bet is no.
Sparkling Rosés To Drink Now
So what are some good pink sparklers to break out for the summer evenings? Here are some that I have recently tasted.
• Gruet Rosé Brut NV, New Mexico $15 - 100% Pinot Noir. Made in small quantities, so get some if you can. Pale salmon color. Floral and red fruit aromas with clean, bright flavors of watermelon, redcurrant and strawberry. Dry with medium weight on palate and a long fruity finish.
• 2004 Schramsberg, Brut Rosé, California $34 – a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Very elegant with refreshing aromas of cranberry, raspberry and redcurrant. Smooth on the palate, persistent mousse and some lovely spicy notes on the finish.
• Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rosé NV, Champagne $42 – A blend of the three classic Champagne grapes - Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Dry with vibrant cocktail of red fruit aromas and flavors with lively lingering mousse.
• Roederer Estate Brut Rose NV, California $26 – A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this has long been a favorite in our house. Elegant, smooth and round, with a persistent, lively mousse and lots of bright red fruit.
• Freixenet Brut Rose NV, Cava, Spain - $12 – a blend of Garnacha (50%) and Monastrell (50%. This sparkling wine is fresh, crisp and lively. It is full of ripe cherry and berry flavors with a body that is exceptionally smooth and satiny. It is surprisingly dry with a long, crisp and satisfying finish.
• Juve Y Camps Brut Rose, Cava, Spain $15 – 100% Pinot Noir. Inviting aromas of peonies, watermelon and strawberry. Refreshing on the palate with a vibrant mousse and lively youthful red fruit.
• 2007 Brut Rosé, Graham Beck, Western Cape, South Africa $18 – A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Very well balanced with bright strawberry and raspberry aromas. Fresh on the palate, with a long creamy mousse.
All of these wines are nationally distributed and should be available in most states.
(Top Image: Wilson Daniels/Schramsberg Vineyards)