Where does rosé champagne come from ?
Nothing quite symbolizes luxury like an elegant, rosé champagne. Striking yet feminine, it never fails to feel like an exclusive treat. Sometimes, it’s a deep salmon colour and other times, the most delicate rose petal pinks. We often have our favourites but how much do we know about how these rosé champagnes are made?
It’s useful to be aware that only a few grapes are allowed to make champagne. Three of them make up more than 99% of the plantings: two red varietals (pinot noir and meunier) and one white (chardonnay). The other grapes are the more confidential white varietals arbane, petit meslier, pinot blanc and pinot gris. ‘Blanc de Noirs’ on the label means ‘white from black (red) grapes’, so the wine in this bottle will be made using only pinot noir, meunier or both. ‘Blanc de Blancs’ on the other hand means ‘white from white grapes’, and in Champagne, this means that the wine will be made with 100% Chardonnay.
Blending red and white
The simplest way to make pink champagne was invented by the widow (veuve) Clicquot back in 1818. Madame Barbe Clicquot Ponsardin, to give her her full title, was the very first person to blend red wine and white to make rosé. Veuve Clicquot Rosé is still to this day made by adding red base wines to Clicquot’s yellow label champagne. Deceptively simple, it’s a short cut to elegance.
Creating colour from skins
The other way to make rosé wine is a touch more complicated. Not many people realise that the vast majority of red wine grapes are actually white inside and in the Champagne region, pinot noir and meunier are no exception. The red colour in wine comes from soaking the skins with the juice; for a long time if you want the wine to be red, or for just a few hours if you intend it to be pink. This is called the ‘saignée’ or ‘maceration’ method and is said to produce a more elegant result than simply blending red wine with white.
Ruinart: an ancient record
Ruinart, the world famous champagne house, has been making rosé champagne for over two hundred and fifty years. Ancient records show that the first ‘maceration’ rosé was created there as far back as 1752 and tell how it used to be referred to as ‘partridge eye’, thanks to its coral hue. Today, Ruinart rosé is created using the blended method and carries a particularly high quantity of chardonnay; more than most other rosé Champagnes.