Sometimes I wonder if all the fuss and expense of champagne is really worth it—and then I run into a delicious wine like this week's Wine of the Week, the Henriot Brut RosÉ ($55) and realize, yes, it is. It's like discovering the wonders of great champagne all over again.
To many Americans, the house of Henriot may be unfamiliar, even to those who fancy themselves aficionados of fizz. Unlike the giant labels—like Moët, Veuve Clicquot, Mumm, Tattinger, et al.—Henriot, which was fouded in 1808 in Reims, is a more modest producer and its distribution network more limited. But its wines, when found, are well worth the price.
Too many champagnes, even expensive ones, taste bland and uninteresting to me, but not these beautiful bubbles. They have a real depth of flavor that sets them apart from the crowd. Perhaps it's because it's a privately owned business—always a help when you are trying to make fine wine—or perhaps it's because Henriot uses only chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, with none of the more prosaic pinot meunier in the blend. That's a formula which is usually only found in prestige cuvÉes—but at four or five times the price.
Or perhaps it's because those grapes come from top-rated vineyards. Whatever the reason, this wine has a wonderfully delicate and polished style, refined and elegant but at the same time possessed of a subtle, rich, yeasty earthiness which becomes more pronounced with the second glass.
So, if you are looking for a stunning rosÉ champagne for a special summer event at a price that won't do too much damage to your already bruised bank account, this is the bubbly. And yes, I'll have that second glass, please.
When to Drink: Now
Breathing/Decanting: The second glass tastes better than the first.
Food Pairing: Perfect for summer foods—cold meats, lobster, and lighter pasta dishes.
Grapes: 58% pinot noir, 42% chardonnay
Web Site: www.champagne-henriot.com
See more wines at nickonwine.com.
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, the Wine Enthusiast, Saveur, Sky, and Golf Connoisseur. He is currently Artisanal Editor for Four Seasons magazine and contributes the Nick Passmore: Wine of the Week column to BusinessWeek.com. He is also a judge at the widely respected annual Critics' Challenge wine competition.