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Intensely fruity with a dry finish, rosé Champagne can be
a perfect food partner. Fionnuala Synnott explains why this colourful bubbly is more than just arm candy
Once seen as a naff drink, rosé Champagne has reinvented itself and is now the fashionable choice. But pink fizz is not just for fashionistas – its versatility makes it a friend to foodies too.
Good rosé Champagne can be painstakingly difficult to make. The challenge is to produce a rich, appealing colour without making it taste like a light red wine. Some houses do this via the ‘saignée’ method, allowing the grape juice to come into contact with the skin of (red) Pinot Noir grapes for a carefully calculated amount of time. The trick is not to let it sit for too long, or the Champagne will become too ‘winey’ as it absorbs the flavour of the grape seeds and skin. The second (infinitely easier and cheaper) method is to add some red wine (made from Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier) to the white wine, before bottling, in time for the second fermentation.
Pinot Noir gives rosé its backbone. The higher the Pinot content, the more robust the rosé will be and therefore easier to marry with food. For instance, Laurent-Perrier’s very popular Cuvée Rosé is generally made entirely from Pinot Noir, with Pinot Meunier, depending on the year. This gives the Champagne an attractive salmon colour and distinctive strawberry flavour, which makes it easy to match with savoury dishes such as charcuterie.
Henriot, on the other hand, uses a combination of techniques to make its rosé: 20% of its Pinot Noir content comes from red wine, with the balance made using the saignée method. It also has a high percentage of Chardonnay, which gives it good ageing potential and finesse. Its 1998 vintage rosé has great depth and is particularly elegant.
Rosé Champagne is often served as an apéritif, but it’s also a great food wine. Young, light rosé (non-vintage made from a blend of different years) often goes well with red fruit desserts, due to its fruity profile. For instance, Veuve Clicquot Rosé is delicious with berries and would suit a light summer pudding.
‘Whether you serve it with a starter, main course, cheese or dessert, rosé Champagne is an ideal accompaniment to almost any meal’
Because of its age, vintage rosé has a richer, more savoury style. Its structure is similar to that of a red Burgundy and is best matched with fuller flavours such as game or mushrooms. Louis Roederer’s Brut Rosé 2004 is delicious served with grilled turbot, morel mushrooms and white asparagus, while the strong mushroom undertones of the 1989 vintage are best served with pink spring lamb or cheese. Meanwhile, Dom Pérignon Rosé Vintage 1998 pairs well with earthy flavours such as rabbit, speck or even a hearty bouillabaisse.
Whether you serve it with a starter, main course, cheese or dessert, rosé Champagne is a versatile accompaniment to almost any meal. So the next time you fancy a glass of bubbly before dinner, order a bottle to last you through the meal and discover what combination works best.
Assistant head sommelier, Chez Bruce, Wandsworth
‘If someone orders a bottle of rosé Champagne as an apéritif, I encourage them to keep some to have with their starters. A glass of pink Champagne is also a nice way to finish off a meal, as its bright acidity cleanses the palate. The demi-sec rosé, Lady Rose by Duval-Leroy, is absolutely lovely and goes with any summer dessert, especially one with strawberries.’
Head sommelier, Kettner’s, Soho
‘Rosé Champagne is more food friendly than white Champagne because of its higher percentage of Pinot Noir. We have well-made family rosé Champagnes such as Louis Roederer and Billecart-Salmon on our list. I also like the Philipponnat Royale Rosée, which is more heavily Pinot-based. When it comes to vintage rosé, Louis Roederer is good and goes well with crispy pork, for instance. We are looking at serving rosé Champagne in our Pudding Bar too, as it would go very well with fruit-based tartlets.’
Head sommelier, The Ledbury, Notting Hill
‘Rosé Champagne works well with a nice dessert. It is particularly good with red fruit. At the moment, we are serving a strawberry terrine with hibiscus ice cream, a strawberry coulis and crisp warm vanilla churros. It’s fresh and not too heavy, so it would go well with pink Champagne. One of my current favourites is by a small producer, Bérèche et Fils. This is made using the saignée method and is more vinous than most of the rosés from big houses. It has more mineral notes with bright red fruit, a touch of toast and soft brioche with a hint of spice.’
Editorial feature from Square Meal Lifestyle Magazine Summer 2009