Wine of the Week

Think Pink (Champagne) for Valentine's Day


Pink champagne for Valentine's Day—of course. What could be better? Well ….

The nasty little secret is that after decades of languishing in the déclassé wilderness, rosé champagne has stormed back to popularity in the past few years, so now there's a shortage of the stuff. Or rather a shortage of the red wine that goes into the blend to make it pink. So great is this demand that real pressure is on the champagne houses to get anything pink, whatever its quality, into a bottle and onto the shelves. This accounts for the mass of indifferent rosé at the moment.

But not from the venerable house of Bollinger. Founded in 1829, it is still family-owned, so it enjoys a big advantage—it can afford to be picky.

This week's Wine of the Week, the Bollinger Rosé nonvintage ($100), was not introduced until 2009 because, according to Stephen Leroux, the house's sales and marketing director, if they were going to do a rosé, they were going to do it right. And do it right they certainly did.

As soon as I popped the cork, my senses were enveloped in the most wonderfully seductive aromas of fresh strawberries. This is what rosé champagne should be all about, I thought.

This mist of strawberries comes from the pinot noir in the blend. As Bollinger is famous for its pinot, the rosé seemed a natural extension of the house style of rich, full-bodied, meaty Champagnes. When I ran this observation by Leroux, he concurred: "This is exactly what we wanted to achieve. After all these years we said there is definitely a market for nonvintage rosé, but the question is, what rosé do we do? If we do something, we have to be serious about it."

The more Bollinger thought about it, the more it realized it was uniquely situated to produce a NV rosé "because Bollinger is in the heart of the Grand Cru vineyards of the pinot noir, because we have such an expertise in producing wine which has been fermenting in oak barrels," says Leroux, "we have all the requirements to produce a great rosé."

And make a great rosé they have most decidedly have.

This is a connoisseurs' champagne, one that will reward the experienced palate. As Leroux explains, "We're not looking for an easy rosé. We're looking for something really structured, and this wine has the structure of the Bollinger nonvintage with the charm of a rosé. That's the magic of Bollinger: It's a great wine, fuller flavored."

And, with its pale copper hue and rich, complex flavor, it's perfect for a luxurious Valentine's celebration.

When to Drink: Now and for the next decade

Breathing/Decanting: Not necessary

Food Pairing: Lighter meat dishes, especially pork; richer fish and Asian food

Grapes: 62% Pinot Noir, 24% Chardonnay, 14% Pinot Meunier

Appellation: Champagne

Region: Champagne

Country: France

Price: $100

Availability: Moderate

Website: www.champagne-bollinger.com

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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