What is sparkling rosé?
They call it the pinnacle of Champagne. The finest of the fizz. The top 1% of all naval aviators...
No wait, that’s Top Gun.
Seriously though, today I want to talk about what is the trickiest sparkling wine to get right – rosé.
Now I think we tend to take pink bubbles for granted, largely associating this style of fizz with cheap and nasty frothy stuff that gets smashed down at pre-formal drinks.
In truth, making high quality rosé is notoriously hard, with the craft involved given such respect that the best pink fizz is often significantly more expensive than its non-blush brethren.
Look at Dom Perignon for an example, where the ‘standard’ wine is $260 a bottle and the rosé is closer to $500 – almost double the price!
Production-wise, both of these Dom Perignon Champagnes are made in very similar ways, with both utilising Pinot Noir for a significant proportion of the blend (100% for the rosé) and both matured for similar times.
The difference comes down to the addition of a little red wine, with just a dash of still Pinot Noir added in to give the rosé that famous blush colour. Where the mastery comes in is how much red wine to use and how to balance it out, with this careful weighing up of components the ultimate challenge for any Champenoise oenologist.
When said winemakers get this process wrong, you end with hard Champagne, and Champagne should never, ever be hard.
To cover up mistakes, less skilful winemakers will then use the oldest trick in the winemaking handbook for pasting over imbalances – sugar. By adjusting the ‘dosage’ (a sweetened liqueur used to top up bottles after disgorgement), winemakers can soften out any hard edges and produce a wine that is palatable. Of course then it is also sweet, which means the balance is off, and you can’t expect someone to pay $500/bottle for something that isn’t well balanced...
The other way to make pink fizz is to leave the clear juice in contact with the (red) skins for a little longer than normal. That’s also a double-edged sword, as if you leave the juice in with the skins too long then you just end up with a hard Champagne once again.
All of this challenge means that the best bubbly rosé – whether it be Champagne or just sparkling wine - is worth celebrating, as it has not only that famous crisp delicacy of the finest fizz, but with an extra layer of texture and general pink awesomeness to go keep you entertained.
Oh and did I mention that sparkling rosé is also much more romantic to look at? Let’s call that three ticks and an automatic win!
If you'd like to learn more about Champagne - and indeed pink wine - come along to one of our wine tastings. Full details of upcoming events here