Cigar Aficionado

Rosé Champagne

More and more Americans will be drinking pink when they pop a cork on Champagne this year. Rosé, with its range of berry and spice flavors and appealing color, has outpaced the overall Champagne category in shipments to the United States, almost doubling in the past two years.

And with good reason. Rosé Champagnes offer a wide choice of styles, with flavors that can be subtle—for example, strawberry, cherry and spice notes—or a Pinot Noir with bubbles. The colors range from onion skin and salmon to pink and bright cherry red.

Most rosé Champagnes are nonvintage cuvées—blends of up to three of the region's grape varieties across two or more vintages. They maintain a consistent house style, but it's the vintage-dated rosés that truly stand out. They are generally made only in the best years and bear the distinctive personality of the growing season. Those made with the house's best wine, the tête de cuvée, allow the chef de cave more creativity.

"In the nonvintage I respect the consumer, in the vintage I respect the sommelier and in the Palmes d'Or I respect my choice," says Nicolas Feuillatte's chef de cave, Jean-Pierre Vincent.

These vintage rosés stood out in my recent tasting for Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado's sister publication.

Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé Champagne La Grande Dame 1995 (93 points) Somewhat mature aromas and flavors of decaying cherry and berry, warm spice and woodsy accents and a firm structure mark this silky, vinous rosé. It's like a mature Burgundy with bubbles. Will pair well with food. Drink now through 2010.

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rosé Champagne Cuvée Palmes d'Or 2000 (92 points) Full of flavor and finesse, this rosé evokes cherry, spice and a touch of green, minty notes. It's finely woven, with a very silky mousse and long, dried berry aftertaste. Drink now through 2010.

Moët & Chandon Brut Rosé Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon 1995 (92 points) Vibrant, firm, intense and minerally, supporting subtle berry and currant aromas and flavors. It's elegant, though well-toned, with a dry, chalky finish. Drink now through 2010.