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24 April 2014

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In the Pink

(menu)

Now that the economy is showing signs of recovery, restaurant-goers are treating themselves again and what better way to do it than by ordering a glass of pink fizz? Fionnuala Synnott discovers the unique appeal of rosé Champagne

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When it comes to glamour and decadence, nothing, it seems, can stop the British love affair with rosé Champagne. Restaurant-goers may be drinking less Champagne overall, but pink fizz is more popular than ever. During the credit crunch, restaurants and bars saw sales of Champagne shrink, with the exception of rosé, which increased in popularity.

As with most trends, there are several factors at work, not least the British love of all things pink. In fact, rosé wine sales in general have been on the up for years and show no signs of stopping. Michel Janneau of Champagne Louis Roederer, attributes the growth of rosé Champagne, in part, to this pink phenomenon. ‘In the UK, rosé wine is increasingly popular. This has led some customers to try rosé Champagne,’ he says.

In fact, more of us are drinking rosé Champagne more often. For years, rosé Champagne has been associated with summertime drinking. After all, what could be more appealing on a hot summer’s day than a refreshing glass of rosé? But rather than being reserved for the right season or the right occasion, such as Valentine’s Day, rosé Champagne is increasingly being drunk throughout the year. It is not just the usual suspects who are drinking it either. It was always popular with the ladies, but now pink Champagne is making converts among men too.

Value for money

The recession has also played a role in the growth of rosé, as we revise our spending habits and look for less flash, more affordable brands. In the past year, many venues have witnessed customers trading down from their usual brand to something more affordable, from Cristal to Dom Pérignon or from Dom Pérignon to Bollinger for example.

This quest for value has led to more experimentation. Once someone starts experimenting with different brands of Champagne, they may be persuaded to try different styles too. Danny Brennan of Laurent-Perrier, explains: ‘If people are trading down they might look at different styles of Champagne, such as rosé.’ This is particularly true if they are ordering a glass of Champagne, which explains why more Champagne houses are now focusing on promoting their fizz ‘by the glass’. ‘In the UK, we have concentrated our efforts on serving rosé by the glass, which has given us wider exposure on restaurant wine lists,’ says Colin Palmer of Billecart-Salmon.

Although Laurent-Perrier and Billecart-Salmon continue to dominate most rosé Champagne lists, there has been a move
away from famous brands. Nicky Turk, MD of the Amuse Bouche Champagne bars in Soho and Fulham, which offer lesser-known rosés, such as François Diligeant Rosé NV as well as classics like Laurent-Perrier, explains: ‘People are looking for something different but more affordable than prestige cuvées and are looking at things they wouldn’t have considered before.’

More affordable certainly doesn’t mean lower quality, however. Traditionally viewed as a fun and frivolous drink, rosé Champagnes are now being taken more seriously. Alexandre Ceret, head sommelier at The Greenhouse in Mayfair, says: ‘Nowadays there are more well-made rosé Champagnes. For instance, Moët & Chandon’s 2003 rosé is a very serious wine.’ Richard Brierley, head of fine wine at Vanquish Wine, which supplies Mahiki, Zuma and the Cuckoo Club, agrees: ‘At the top end, there is a real understanding of prestige cuvée rosé… it’s a serious beverage.’

Connoisseurs may still be lusting after the prestige names but, according to Turk, ‘certain brands associated with ostentatious, brash behaviour’ are not selling
as well as they used to. People may be treating themselves again, but they are doing so in a less flaunty fashion. ‘Following the credit crunch, customers are more discreet about what they buy,’ says Ceret.

So after 18 difficult months, business is finally picking up for restaurants and rollercoaster Champagne sales are (hopefully) a thing of the past. Fun and understated, pink Champagne is perfect for these post-recessionary times, showing just the right level of confidence in our bruised economy. Chic but not flash, a glass of rosé reflects the new feel-good factor hitting our restaurants. No need for any fancy additions, the colour speaks for itself! 

'Traditionally viewed as a fun and frivolous drink, rosé Champagnes are now being taken more seriously'


Colour code

There are two ways of obtaining the eye-catching pink colour in a glass of rosé Champagne. The classic method is to add a little red wine (made from Pinot Noir) to white wine, just before the Champagne undergoes its secondary fermentation. Houses which make rosé Champagnes in this way include: Billecart-Salmon, Bollinger, Dom Pérignon, Gosset, Moët & Chandon, Lanson, Krug, Ruinart.

The less common saignée method involves ‘bleeding’ the skins of the red Pinot Noir grapes into the white grape juice (usually only for a matter of hours – any more would make the Champagne tannic). This produces a fuller style, more akin to a light red wine. Houses which make rosé Champagnes in this way include: Drappier, Jacquesson, Laurent-Perrier.


Editorial feature from Square Meal Lifestyle Summer 2010


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