Wine of the Week

A Valentine's Rosé


For many guys, St. Valentine's Day presents a minefield of potential romantic disasters; plenty of relationships have floundered as a result of the male party in question failing to deliver the largesse in sufficient style and quantity to satisfy the female party's expectations. But then there's always Champagne.

Champagne, with its celebratory effervescence and general air of luxury, seems tailor-made for this most tricky of dates. And if you then deliver the coup de romance by making that Champagne a rosé, most guys would assume that they had surmounted this obstacle in girlfriend-pleasing style.

But not so fast. If your sweet has more exotic tastes than are satisfied by an inexpensive bottle of prosecco—and I know many who fall into this category—and if you think your life over the next few weeks might be a little less stressful if you dig a bit deeper into your pocket, then I have the perfect upgrade for you.

I recently had the pleasure of dining with Cyril Brun, chief winemaker for Veuve Clicquot, the famed Champagne house by French luxury giant Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), and among other cuvées he produced something really rather special—the Veuve Clicquot Rare Vintage Rosé 1985 ($120).

And no, that's not a typo. The wine really is 25 years old. It is a sublime example of what wonderful alchemy can happen to fine Champagne with the passing of not just years but decades.

Rare Weather Combination

In 1985 an extremely cold winter—25% of the vines died—combined with a heat wave in July produced small quantities of superconcentrated, intensely flavored wine. A full 20 years maturing sur lie (which means it has been aged on the lees, which are dead or residual yeast left on the bottom of the vat after the fermentation and aging) before being disgorged in 2005 added yet more complexity. Finally, five years' resting in the bottle allowed all these amazing elements to merge into a harmony of astounding richness and complexity.

Time has turned the bright pink of normal rosé to pale copper. And the flavor? It simply astounds: soft and round, with absolutely no sharp edges, a complex melody of mushroomy, earthy elements combined with that well-toasted-bread character that Champagne acquires with time. These all worked magically with the mushroom and truffle risotto that accompanies it, the rich fecundity of the food and the wine playing off each other in a pas de deux of gastronomic delight.

So if your valentine's expectations run a bit richer than a box of chocolates and a bunch of roses, or you simply fancy a spot of pure Champagne indulgence yourself, the Veuve Clicquot Rare 1985 is the ideal fizz.

To find the Rare Veuve Clicquot near you, try www.wine-searcher.com

When to Drink: Now

Breathing/Decanting: Not necessary.

Food Pairing: Mushroom-and-truffle risotto or poultry, rich, creamy sauces, and such cheeses as Gruyère and Camembert.

Grapes: 49% pinot noir, 14.5% pinot meunier, 36.5 % chardonnay

Appellation: Champagne

Region: Champagne

Country: France

Price: $120

Availability: Limited

Nick_passmore
Nick Passmore is an independent wine writer and consultant based in New York. For five years he contributed a widely read monthly wine column to Forbes.com, in addition to which his work has appeared in such publications as Forbes, Discover, Town & Country, the Robb Report, Wine Enthusiast, Saveur, Sky, and Golf Connoisseur. He is currently artisanal editor for Four Seasons magazine and contributes a twice monthly column to BusinessWeek.com. He is also a judge at the annual Critics’ Challenge wine competition.

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