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A deeper shade of pink

Published:  12 March, 2010

Carol Emmas considers the differences between rosé fizz at the Champagne Summit's masterclass.

Carol Emmas considers the differences between rosé fizz at the Champagne Summit's masterclass.

Once seen as the poor relative of its more established sibling, the past decade has seen rosé Champagne rise through the ranks unabated. Now almost every house has developed its own distinct vintage or non-vintage style of pink.

Hosting the rosé masterclass at the Harpers Wine & Spirit Champagne Summit
was Richard Bampfield MW, who admitted he had never previously attended a specific rosé tasting in the UK.

"It shows how far pink Champagne has come and how seriously it is now being taken
as a category in its own right," he said.

Champagne rosé sales have doubled in the UK over the past six years. In 2003 sales
were around 1.5 million bottles and that has risen to well over 3 million in 2009, sa id

Historically, he says, producers were all about fine tuning Blanc de Noirs. But 20 years ago , defying ingrained opinions and "staining" its Champagne was Laurent -
Perrier, which he champions as being at the forefront of the sparkling rosé revolution.

"Other houses have a lot to be grateful for, Laurent -Perrier pioneered rosé Champagne by pricing aspirationally and packaging its product very stylishly ," he added.

Now rosé Champagne has established itself, it has given leverage to experimentation and Bampfield said there is now a move by young producers in Champagne towards using Pinot Meunier as a dominant blend.

"Not only is it more available and cheaper, but it tends to produce nice aromas , juiciness on the palate and is good for drinking in its youth.

"The great thing about rosé is the category is still young . Each producer is trying to reach its own conclusion and find new ways of establishing a style - and that always leads to new and exciting developments."

Differences in style were shown by Bampfield through the six rosé Champagnes
tasted at the masterclass, which consisted of the 40% Pinot Meunier -dominant Champagne Besserat de Bellefon Cuvée des Moines Rosé NV, Champagne Lanson Rosé Label NV, Champagne Castelnau Rosé NV, Champagne Taittinger Prestige Rosé, Champagne Bollinger Rosé and Champagne Pannier Velours Rosé.

Opposites in styles came from Champagne Besserat de Bellefon Cuvée des Moines
Rosé NV and Champagne Bollinger Rosé.

While the former was rich and vibrant pink in the glass, aromatic on the nose and
displayed a fuller-bodied ripe fruit style, the latter displayed only a hint of colour
in the glass.

It's been said that Lilly Bollinger once compared rosé to wine of the bordello, and
the Bollinger was certainly more refined and linear, with a high acidity on the palate and displayed much less ripe fruit.

Whether that's because Bollinger has modelled it, as Bampfield says, "unashamedly
on white" because Lilly Bollinger still has issues with the category, is another question.

But in just six examples it pointed to how diverse the category can be.