Vineyards & Wine

The Christie’s Wine Expert: “Rosé Champagne Never Loses its Allure”

Chris Munro, Head of Christie’s Wine Department, explains why the appeal of pink champagne lasts long beyond the summer

Champagne, a drink of celebration and romance, is most often white made from the juice of both white and black grapes. Sometimes, when the occasion calls for it, we like to drink a rosé or pink champagne.

Rosé champagne is made using two methods, the most common being the blending of red—usually Pinot Noir grapes—and white wine, most often Chardonnay. An alternative method to this involves the delicate crushing of red grapes and a partial maceration to produce the required color—rosé de saignée.

Most of the major champagne houses produce white and pink versions, and a few produce a vintage rosé, something to be collected and aged, giving immense pleasure as it does so.

Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay grapes are blended to create Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé—a pale pink champagne that enjoys something of a cult following.

In recent years rosé champagne has become increasingly popular, with many producers cashing in on this trend and producing large quantities of non-vintage pink fizz to satisfy demand. Navigating this landscape needs consideration and thought, as there are large quality differences between products with similar price tags.

My personal favorites for a basic non-vintage are Billecart-Salmon and Laurent Perrier—both offer delightful drinking for summer months.

More serious aficionados should seek out vintage Dom Pérignon, particularly 1990, 1996, or 2002. Pommery produces a lovely vintage rosé, Cuvée Louise, a wine that is definitely worth looking out for.

Perhaps the epitome of classic rosé champagne is Bollinger’s superb cuvée Vieilles Vignes Françaises. Produced from two of Bollinger’s grand cru vineyards, Chaudes Terres and Clos St. Jacques, it was launched onto the market in 1974 and immediately became a coveted collectible.

Bollinger bubbly: A 1982 bottle of Vieilles Vignes Françaises sold for £1,960 ($2,595) at Christie’s in London in December 2020.

Bollinger now produces approximately 3,000 bottles per year, made from 100 percent Pinot Noir. It is one of the great wines of the world and often appears at Christie’s Wine & Spirit sales around the globe.

4 Things to Know About Rosé Champagne

1. Almost all early champagnes were light pink in color, as the ancient technique of pressing grapes by foot allowed a little of the skins’ hue to infiltrate the liquid. It wasn’t until the early 1700s that a system was developed to create white sparkling wine.

2. In 1775, Veuve Clicquot became the first house to sell rosé champagne commercially. Today, the brand is known for its luscious, fruit-based iteration of the drink.

3. It has the royal stamp of approval. Moët & Chandon Rosé Impérial is said to be a firm favorite of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, while the house’s Dom Pérignon vintage champagne was served at the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

4. You can judge a bottle by its color. Rosé champagnes come in a variety of hues; from super pale, and much more dry, to a deep pink, which is likely to be sweeter and fruitier.

Banner image: Bottles of Laurent Perrier Cuvée Rosé. Alamy