Rosé seems perfect for Feb. 14
Let sparking rosé bring a sparkle to your Valentine's Day plans
Color of love: Rosé sparkling wine, whether from the heartland of Champagne, or from many other places worldwide, is perfect for Feb. 14. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)
Putting the bubbles into rosé sparkling wine is easy compared with retaining the pink in it. "Rosé Champagne is typically a blend of a small amount of red wine into a base of white wine," says Pierre-Samuel Reyne, export manager for Champagne Montaudon of Reims, France. "That is because, compared to the way most rosé wine is made, the pink fades during the second fermentation."
Winemakers in Champagne found that when they fermented, for a second time, an already pink wine in the bottle (the "Champagne method"), that the pink blush was lost. So they devised a way to retain that pink by beginning with a fairly dark-hued rosé, a white wine heavily tinted by a red wine, in order to end up with a sparkling wine that was resoundingly pink.
Montaudon's blend for its deliciously round and full NV Montaudon Grand Rosé Champagne ($40-$45) is about 15 percent red pinot noir from Les Riceys, a commune that specializes in the growing of pinot noir. (Les Riceys is also the only commune in all of Champagne that can boast of holding three appellations: Champagne, Coteaux Champenois and Rosé des Riceys.)
Adding red wine to white in order to make pink is disallowed in all other areas of France except in Champagne. Nonetheless, some winemakers of sparkling rosé — French or otherwise — do start with pink wine for the second fermentation. In a method called by its French name, "saignee" (from "saigner," to bleed), the winemaker crushes red grapes and then, after several hours of skin contact, bleeds off a proportion of the now-pink juice into a separate fermenting vat. The idea is twofold: to make a pink wine and to strengthen the red wine. By bleeding off some juice, the winemaker increases the ratio of skins to juice in the red wine.
In addition to the Montaudon, I've got a few other rosé sparkling wines to recommend, from several countries and from lowest to highest price. All wines are multivintage or nonvintage unless noted.
Poema Brut Rosé Cava Penedes Spain: From the trepat grape; very dry and lean, with taut acidity hovering over strawberrylike fruit. $11
Torres Santa Digna Estelado Rosé Chile: A winner (and huge surprise) at last year's Wines of Chile awards; from the pais grape, found to be perfect for sparkling wine ("estelado" is the new Chilean designation for sparkling wines); dry, big on flavor, super-fresh and crisp; very attractive price for all its flavor. $17-$19
Graham Beck Brut Rosé Western Cape South Africa: Great price and super packaging for a multilayered, coral-colored, tightly dry pink sparkler; open aroma, long flavor. $18
Pierre Sparr Rosé Cremant d'Alsace France: Sparkling strawberry juice, if you will, all about the aroma. $18
Le Grand Courtage Brut Rosé France: A blend of white and red grapes from all over the country that ends up a delicate, eminently sippable pink; very clean, fresh. $19
2010 Nino Franco Brut Rosé "Faive" Veneto Italy: Closest that you'll taste from Italy to Champagne's famed "chalk" or "minerals," underneath lots of cranberrylike fruit; soft, delicate finish after that powerful pop of earth. $20
Berlucchi Rosé "Cuvee 61" Franciacorta Italy: 50/50 pinot noir/chardonnay; incisively dry, crisp and refreshing, after a round, nearly "fat" texture. $22
Jansz Premium Rosé Tasmania Australia: The cool climate Down Under makes for a very crisp, lean style; texture is soft, fruity (strawberries to the max), with enticing salmon color and a tangy, zippy finish. $22
Domaine Carneros by Taittinger Brut Rosé "Cuvee de la Pompadour" California: Pomegranate marks both nose and palate, with a fine mousse and very zippy acidity; terrific price for West Coast methode champenoise. $35-$40.
Domaine Chandon Rosé "Etoile" Napa/Sonoma Counties California: You know you're sipping America here, for powerful, though well-etched, aromas and flavors of dark cherry compote, complete with biscuit-y topping. $50
Paul Goerg Brut Rosé "Premier Cru" Champagne France: You can sense the red wine in the blend (touch of tannin) from this top-flight co-op producer; gobs of flavor for the money. $40-$50
Besserat de Bellefon Brut Rosé "Cuvee les Moines" Champagne France: Made in a less-frothy style for creamy texture and much apple-y, lemon-curdlike flavor and aroma; delicious chalky finish. $55
Gosset Brut "Grand Rosé" Champagne France: If you want to go high-end, go here; this classic rosé Champagne is notable for its combination of cream, chalk, citrus, spice and red fruit aromas and tastes; its juicy cranberry-orange color and, indeed, flavor notes don't end with the swallow. $75-$80
If your wine store does not carry these wines, ask for one similar in style and price.
Bill St. John has been writing and teaching about wine for more than 30 years.