Discover Sparkling: Sparkling Rosé

Written by
Vintage Cellars
October 1, 2018
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Sparkling rosé is elegantly suited to Australia’s diverse cuisine and warm climate, and deserves pride of place in every celebration. If trends in the UK, US and Japan are anything to go by (and they are), sparkling rosé is the category poised for the most dramatic growth in Australia. Furthermore, champagne houses Moët & Chandon and Mumm are targeting rosé as their key focus.

The explosion in still rosé sales across Australia in recent years has been revolutionary, but even after steady rises over the past four years, Australia consumes just one-third of champagne rosé compared to other top markets. We remain the smallest of Champagne's top markets for champagne rosé sales.

Home ground advantage

Rosé is a style that Australia can produce remarkably well. Our warm, dry climate and high levels of ultraviolet light can have the effect of accentuating phenolic grip, which tends to disrupt the elegance of white sparkling wines. Rosés are able to handle this better, thanks to the fruit body and tannin presence of their red wine component. Look for wines made in cool-climate regions, led confidently by Tasmania and the Yarra Valley.

Rosé on the table

Sparkling rosé is inherently friendly with many cuisines. In a pale, light and airy style, it calls for subtle flavours, but a fleshy and structured rosé can confidently handle anything up to pork or turkey. Salmon is rosé’s best friend, a captivating match of colour and flavour. Contrary to popular opinion, sweet desserts are kryptonite to sparkling rosés, unless paired with pink moscato.

In sparkling rosé production, the blending method (rosé d’assemblage) is most commonly used, in which a tiny quantity of pinot noir or meunier is added – often only 5–10 per cent, but sometimes as much as 20 per cent. The saignée method adds free-run juice from just-crushed red grapes, producing the finest, palest wines. A limited maceration method produces darker, heavier wines through a quick soak on red skins.

Veuve Rosé

In 1818, Barbe-Nicole Clicquot also known as Veuve (Widow) Clicquot did a daring and creative thing as the first-ever woman to take over a Champagne house. For the first time in Champagne, Madame Clicquot blended red wine with white to create rosé champagne. Precisely 200 years on, her house remains a leader in what has become one of the fastest-growing and most exciting styles of the modern champagne era.

It takes particularly fine red wine to make great champagne rosé, which requires skill in Champagne’s cold climate. Pinot noir and pinot meunier are cropped at low yields and ripened well beyond usual levels in order to make red wine.

The holy grail is to produce red wine of maximum colour, flavour and aroma and as little tannin as possible – no small feat, since all of these elements are extracted from the grape skins. It takes remarkable vineyards and talented souls to extract everything but tannins.

Veuve Clicquot operates one of the finest red wine outfits in all of Champagne. The house’s commitment to rosé production has seen it dedicate 10 hectares of its prime pinot noir vines to red wine production in the village of Bouzy alone. It operates two state-of-the-art wineries dedicated to red wines. Viewing Veuve mid-vintage is astounding. Samples of red wine ferments display breathtaking violet and rose petal aromatics, culminating in a profound champagne red wine. It displayed complexity and depth only seen in Grand Cru red Burgundy. To experience how this red wine transforms champagne, compare Veuve Clicquot Rosé Brut NV with Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut NV. It’s exactly the same wine, with the addition of just 12 per cent red wine. Madame Clicquot had no idea how far her experiment of 1818 would go.

Mumm Rosé

With the rise and rise of rosé’s popularity today, it may come as a surprise that pink champagne is a relatively modern development of the mainstream sparkling world. Until recent decades, there were only a handful of champagne houses dabbling in pink production. Mumm was one of the early players on the scene, making its first rosé in the 1860s under the name "Royal Rosé", since it was supplied to the royal courts all over Europe.

More than 150 years on, Mumm Rosé is a variation of its famous Cordon Rouge blend – 13-15 per cent red wine is added to transform it into a primary, fresh, fruit-focused, clean and lively rosé style, loved the world over.

Since taking the lead at Mumm at the young age of 35 in 2006, Chef de Cave Didier Mariotti has made it his ambition to take Cordon Rouge to the next level (and hence Mumm Rosé with it). The blend now enjoys a higher percentage of chardonnay and reserve wines have been increased from 20 per cent to an impressive 30-35 percent, spanning six vintages. Maturation times have been increased to two-and-a-half years on lees in the cellar, and dosage was lowered from 10g/L to 8g/L.

Sparkling Glasses

Decent glassware is essential for the full appreciation of wine, and all the more for Champagne and sparkling. The Champenois prefer slightly wider glasses than typical sparkling flutes, to allow the finest cuvées sufficient space to open out and room for your nose to appreciate the bouquet. Think halfway between a flute and a fine white wine glass. All good glasses curve in slightly at the
top. The finer the glass, the better they look at the table, and the less the sparkling will warm up when you pour it. Cut, engraved or coloured glasses make it harder to appreciate the wine’s appearance.

It’s paramount that there is not the slightest residue of detergent in the glass, as this will instantly destroy the mousse and the taste of the wine. Wash under warm water without detergent and polish with a microfibre towel. Never dry a glass by holding the base and twisting the bowl, as this may snap the stem.

Serving Temperature

Champagne and sparkling wine are often served much too cold for their full appreciation. Poured at
fridge temperature, the wine will taste flavourless and acidic. The only exceptions are particularly sweet styles of wines, which are best toned down with a stern chill. In general, the finer the wine, the warmer it should be served. The Champenois suggest 8–10°C for non-vintage wines and
rosé styles, and 10–12°C for vintage and other prestige wines.

If you’re pulling a bottle of Champagne or sparkling out of a climate-controlled cellar, it will need to be cooled a little further in the fridge for about 30 minutes. If the bottle has been sitting at room
temperature to start with, it will need about three to four hours in the fridge to chill down, or 15 minutes in an ice bucket might be in order. On a warm day, serve sparkling or Champagne a touch cooler than usual, as it will soon warm up.

Discover the range of sparkling rosé at Vintage Cellars today.