As the first Champagne house with close to three centuries of history from which to pull, perhaps it might not surprise you to learn that after going through old archives of accounting books, a great discovery was made. A shipment marked with the date March 14, 1764, and registered to a German duke clearly specified 60 bottles of a sparkling wine the color of “Oeil de Perdrix,” or a delicate pink with coppery reflections. This is the oldest noted record of pink Champagne. And today, 250 years later, Ruinart Rosé remains a testament to their commitment to pink perfection in a bottle.
While Frédéric Panaïotis, Ruinart Rosé cellar master, can only assume that the earliest pink Champagne was created by a short maceration period (skin contact with juice), today’s Ruinart Rosé is the expression of two grapes blended in total harmony. “Ruinart relies a lot on chardonnay; it is the signature star of the wine, bringing a freshness and a sort of clarity and purity we like to find in our Champagne.” Mainly harvested from the Côte des Blancs, chardonnay makes up 45 percent of the blending equation and embodies the very essence of the “Ruinart Taste.” The other 55 percent is attributed to pinot noir from the Montagne de Reims and Vallée de la Mame, including about 18 percent of pinot noir red wine. “In the Ruinart Rosé nonvintage, we want a rosé that looks, smells, and tastes like a rose; something intense in terms of delicacy, but not too big.”
Color will of course vary slightly from year to year depending on the exact percentage of red wine used, but Panaïotis explains that they work within a specific color frame: pink with a golden, slightly coppery shimmer to it. “It is always a subtle battle between some color and the fruit. The taste and flavor is paramount, even though the color has to be fairly consistent.” After the rosé is made, it still has to be bottled with yeast and aged for two- and-a-half to three years, and so the color will change and Ruinart has to anticipate that. “It’s a delicate balance between both factors: getting the color right and the taste—not just the aroma, but the whole mouthfeel and the right level of fleshness or roundness in the rosé.”
A Ruinart Rosé nonvintage is both grand and intense, open and lifted. “On top of the quite common descriptors of berry fruit, you get a floral element best described as a rose or peony, a nice spicy flower note. Another element I believe to be specific to our wine is what I call the ‘tropical truth’: guava, lychee, and ripe pomegranate. Add to that a pink grapefruit element both on the nose and on the palate, and a mintiness that gives it a beautiful freshness. The final balance is smooth with a nice silkiness.”
Perhaps it’s the way they make the chardonnay, the red wine, the blending process itself, or a combination of all three—but the result speaks for itself. Sales of rosé Champagnes have skyrocketed, jumping from a mere 2 percent in the United States in 1995 to 16 percent in 2013. Consumption once relegated to the summertime is now year- round. “Pink Champagne has a celebratory edge to it and sells well in large-format bottles. Well-made rosés with bright fruit are refreshing. They have a good fatness on the palate that makes them a pleasure to drink by themselves or with food. They are extremely accessible wines.”