Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Rosés of the "finest" Champagne grower-producers

I am partial to Rosé Champagne, a love fueled in large part by many positive experiences with Jacques Selosse's product. Upon completion of my review of the "finest" Champagne grower-producers, I thought it would be fun to taste as many of their Rosés as I could lay my hands on in order to compare them to the Selosse.

Rosés in Champagne are made utilizing one of two methods: (i) adding a still red wine to the base wine(s) prior to the second fermentation or (ii) macerating the juice on the skins and bleeding the liquid off the solids prior to fermentation. The latter method is referred to by its French name saignée. I will cover the Rosés under consideration using the production method as a classification scheme beginning with still-wine blends.

Still-Wine Blends
The Jacques Selosse Rosé is made from a blend of two successive vintages of Avize Chardonnay (94%) plus 6% of Ambonnay Pinot Noir from the vineyards of Egly-Ouriet. The wine is vinified with indigenous in 20% new oak barriques with the used-oak component secured from Burgundy's Domaine Leflaive. The wine spends a minimum of 5 years on the lees and is dosed at between 2.4 and 5.5 g/L.

There are distinct differences in coloration and taste from bottle to bottle of the Selosse Rosé. For example, a bottle that I recently tasted at Chroma Modern Bar showed orange, orange peel, butterscotch, orange rind, tangerine and was thick and rich. A bottle tasted at Le Taillevent in Paris, on the other hand, showed dried rode petals, strawberries, yeast, and sourdough. Lean with bright acidity and a burnt orange taste. This is not one of the finest grower Rosés; it is one of the finest Rosés. Period.

Jérôme Prévost's Fac-Simile is basically the Les Béguines base wine blended with Pinot Meunier still-wine from the same vineyard. The grapes are hand-harvested and fermented by indigenous yeasts in a mix of used barriques and demi-muids ranging in size between 400L and 600L. The wines are aged in the fermentation vessels. The wines are unfined, unfiltered, unstabilized, and no enzymes are added. Small amounts of SO₂ are added to the wine.

Liqueur de tirage addition is currently at 23 gm, down from 24.5 gm prior to 2007. This new level has resulted in lower pressure, fewer bubbles, and lower alcohol.

This single-vineyard, single-vintage, single-varietal champagne is disgorged after 18 months (Disgorgement prior to 3 years prevents this wine from being labeled a vintage champagne). Approximately 2 g/L of dosage is added.

I tasted two instances of this wine in quick succession and was mightily impressed on both occasions. The most recent tasting was at Roscioli in Rome. I saw this wine as having a more intense color in the glass than does the Selosse. Ripe apple, dried fruits and herbs on the nose. Faded strawberry, tamarind, intense acidity, and a lengthy finish on the palate. No traditional Champagne effects on the palate.

Chartogne-Taillet's Le Rosé is a blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir (with 15% of the Pinot Noir drawn from the 50-year-old vines in the Les Orizeaux vineyard). This is a vintage Champagne except that it does not meet the aging requirements. Fermentation is carried out in stainless steel tanks using indigenous yeasts.

This wine when tasted was concentrated on the nose with dried rose petals, potpourri, and Grandma's attic. A hint of yeast. Rose petals and strawberry on the palate. Bright, fresh, concentrated. Juicy. Exercises the salivary glands. A little burnt orange on the finish. Fine mousse. Pleasing but not as elegant as the Selosse.

The Egly-Ouriet Brut Rosé Grand Cru is built from 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay and a small addition (6 - 8%) of Ambonnay Rouge drawn from cask. Ninety percent of the fruit is drawn from the Grand Cru Village of Ambonnay with the remainder being drawn from the Grand Cru villages of Bouzy and Ambonnay. The grapes are fermented, and the wine aged, in older barrels. The blend that goes to second fermentation is comprised of 50% current-year wine and 50% drawn from prior vintages. The wine spends between 48 and 60 months on lees and is dosed at between 3 and 4 g/l.

High-toned strawberry on the nose. Powerful with dried strawberries, bright acidity, yeastiness, and a limey minerality. Excellent persistence. Rich.

Saignée Method
The Roses de Jeanne Rosé (Le Creux d'Enfer) is made from Pinot Noir sourced from a lieu-dit of the same name and of which Cédric Bouchard owns 0.032 ha. In this case the grapes are harvested by hand, foot-stomped and then macerated on the skins and stems for up to 4 days in order to produce the classic color. The juice is then bled off the solids and fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks.

Malolactic fermentation occurs naturally. The wine spend 6 to 7 months in tank before being bottled and then spends 36 months in bottle sur latte. No dosage upon disgorgement

I was unable to secure a bottle of this wine for tasting. Walters describes the wine as "fabulously pure" and "silky and yet energetic with crystalline red fruits and subtle nettle and herbal notes."

The Saignée de Sorbée is a "deliciously sappy, peppery Rosé that can be thought of as a light red wine." The single-vineyard, Pinot Noir grapes are subjected to lengthy carbonic maceration and extended fermentation in oak barrels. Indigenous yeasts are used for both first and second fermentations.

Dark berry color in the glass. Anarchic bubbles. Berry and bramble on the nose along with candy floss and carbonic maceration. Ripe strawberry on the palate along with an effervescence. Almost no body initially -- ephemeral. Loses effervescence after a while and settles into a poor imitation of an acidic, short-finish Beaujolais wine.

Ulysse Collin Rosé de Saignée is made from Pinot Noir fruit from the flagship Les Maillons vineyard. This is a vintage Champagne with its 2012 inaugural vintage released in 2017 to the Hong Kong and Chinese markets. That initial release numbered only 700 bottles.

I was unable to secure a bottle of this wine for tasting. Peter Liem described the wine as vibrant, energetic, and full of concentrated red-fruit flavor (1.7 g/l dosage). Crush Wine described the inaugural vintage as "profoundly complex and incredibly challenging" while the 2013 "offers up a wild complexity -- red fruits mixed with earth, herbs and minerals in dramatic interplay."

The Pinot Noir for the Larmandier-Bernier Rosé de Saignée is destemmed and then macerated for 2 - 3 days before being bled off the solids. The juice is then fermented in enamel-lined steel vats with the resulting wine spending 1 year on lees. The wine spends an additional 3 years on lees post the second fermentation. Dosage is 3 g/l.

This wine was unyielding on the nose. Pinot fruit and rose petals on the palate. Austere.

Of the wines I tasted, I preferred the still-wine blends to the saignées. They seemed to be livelier. Jacques Selosse led comfortably among these wines but I was impressed by the Fac-simile, Chartogne-Taillet, and Egly-Ouriet.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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