Key to my heart: rosé bubbly

When I think of a wine that celebrates romance, I think of sparkling wine. And for the day on the calendar that’s all about romance, Valentine’s Day, I think of a bubbly with a hue reminiscent of roses and candy hearts. I reach for rosé.

For many people, an early drinking experience was something called “pink champagne” – not real Champagne at all, but a cheap domestic product. Perhaps it was served at a wedding reception and, if you were new to wine, it tasted pleasantly sweet and fizzy, but the mild buzz you got from it soon gave way to an awful headache.

High-quality sparkling wine can give you a headache, too, I suppose – if you radically over-indulge. But good rosé bubblies are more likely to offer a lot of pleasure. Most are fairly dry, and they often have more body than non-rosés, as well as that rosy color. (The color usually is achieved by blending a little still red wine into the sparkling wine, although a saignée process sometimes is used.)

The overall popularity of rosé wines may be one factor that’s boosting the fortunes of rosé bubbly. Rosé from the Champagne region of France, for example, has enjoyed significant growth in the U.S. over the past decade, according to the Champagne Bureau, USA. Nearly 15 percent of the Champagne shipped to the U.S. is rosé, and that figure is growing, despite the fact that rosé Champagne is often significantly more expensive than non-rosé. Sam Heitner, director of the bureau, notes rosé Champagne’s versatility. It works well as an aperitif, he says, “but also goes into a meal a little farther.”

For Valentine’s Day, some bubbly producers have special packaging. From Champagne, for example, Moet & Chandon is offering its non-vintage Rosé Imperial Brut ($50) in a themed gift box or a special sleeve. All well and good, but the wine’s good, too: fresh and racy, with delicate red fruit and hints of brioche and wet stone.

If you want to spring for a vintage wine, the 2008 Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage Rosé ($70) is fuller-bodied, with creamy red fruit, a yeasty note and fine texture.

There are lots of good choices for rosé Champagne. They tend to be pricey – some of them cost hundreds of dollars. Two that I’ve tried recently (and are less than $100) are the non-vintage Taittinger Prestige Brut Rosé ($84), a wine with a lot of finesse, and the non-vintage Duval Leroy Rosé Prestige ($80), a creamy, very pretty wine.

California producers of methode champenoise bubbly make some delicious rosés that are considerably more affordable. My go-to wine is the non-vintage Roederer Estate Brut Rosé ($28), but there are several other good ones in that under-$30 category (and they’re often heavily discounted). Two to consider are Mumm Napa ($24) and Chandon ($24).

For more of a splurge, there’s the 2013 Schramsberg Brut Rosé ($44), which is spicy, round and full-bodied, and the non-vintage Domaine Carneros “Cuvée de la Pompadour” Brut Rosé ($37), which is more delicate. (Domaine Carneros is the Napa Valley outpost of Champagne Taittinger.)

Although I’ve concentrated here on Champagne and California wines, many places in the world produce sparkling rosé. The Trento area of northern Italy is a place where bubbly is produced in the traditional method, (as opposed to the pressurized-tank method generally used for Italy’s best-known fizz, prosecco). The 2013 Rotari Brut Rosé ($20) is reasonably priced and delicious, with delicate red fruit and some creamy richness. And for an even better bargain, there’s the non-vintage Antech “Emotion” Cremant de Limoux Rosé ($15) from France’s Languedoc region, another bubbly produced by the traditional method. It’s very refined for the price, with creamy lemon and strawberry flavors.


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