When you put rosé and Champagne together you definitely get something I adore. Rosé Champagne combines my love of dry, still rosé with the elegance and pleasure of bubbles. So it was instructive and informative (and thirst-slakingly pleasurable) to be invited to taste four Rosé Champagnes of different styles, colors, and flavors at Fat Cork‘s Seattle HQ.
The first two, the Henry-Quenardel made from Pinot Noir and the Matheiu-Gandon made from the more uncommon Pinot Meunier (pictured upper right, respectively), were distinctive for their darker, deeper red color. These were made through a process called saignée , or “bleeding.” Such a gruesome word, no? Sounds much better in French. (What doesn’t?) This method of creating Rosé Champagne from red grapes involves keeping the grape skins in contact with the juice until the precise color is achieved, then the pink juice is separated form the skins. Can you image the amount of babysitting necessary? You step out to have a smoke, a chat, get wrapped up in a Facebook thread that started with a compelling picture of kittens, and all of a sudden, “Oh no! I forgot about the wine!” And now your rosé is not so rosy in color. (I’m exaggerating a bit here, but it is a very involved process.)
The next two rosés, the Perrot-Bateaux Alexandre Lenique (pictured lower left, respectively) were frankly more of my kind of pink Champagne: austere, light, elegant, and refreshing. These two were made by adding a finished still red wine to the clear, fermented juice before bottling. This method is less risky, as you have more control. And is useful if you are not awash in red wine grapes.
I absolutely loved the color of the Perrot-Bateau, with its orange-y glow. The Alexandre Lenique was a little more complex and distinctive. The best part of this quartet of Rosé Champagnes was the wide variety of styles. I look forward to discovering (and drinking) more.
I have to admit I’ve not had much old Champagne, and I wonder how much I’d like it. I value freshness. It’s kind of heretical, I’m sure, to many aficionados and people who know a lot more than me. Especially when you are around a group of very talented and knowledgeable sommeliers who not only like to drink older Champagne, but even Champagne after its gone flat. I can see the point of this as the best Blanc de Blancs Champagne (made from 100% Chardonnay) reminds me of the best still Chardonnay that comes from Burgundy. But damnit, I want my bubbles. The 1996 (which is by no means old, actually quite young in Champagne years) was most reminiscent of a great white Burgundy: lots of golden richness, and a sturdy build in the glass. That and the fresh and friendly 2002 were my favorites.
Naturally I was pleased as punch that there were potato chips on the table. A classic accompaniment for White Burgundy and Brut (Dry) Champagne. And surprisingly pleasurable with Rosé Champagne. Though I could probably snack on Melba Toast with Rosé Champagne and find it satisfying.
Big thanks to Fat Cork owner Bryan Maletis for his generosity. Check out his story and his Champagne.