The various flavours of lockdown have prevented me from exploring any food and drink beyond local takeaways and supermarket shelves, and so I think I can be forgiven for my lack of food and drink posts of late.
However, with a significant birthday on the horizon I did buy three different bottles of pink champagne from my local supermarket and decided to write about them here once I had consumed them.
I am not a wine connoisseur, but as the Philistines say, I know what I like…
Tesco Finest Rose Champagne (£23) 750ml 12.5% Vol
This sparkling wine is labelled under the Tesco Finest brand in partnership with Union Champagne. Union Champagne is a cooperative of 2,000 winegrowers with over 1,000 hectares and over 60% rated as Grand Cru. Grand Cru (French for ‘great growth’) is a regional wine classification that designates a vineyard as having a favourable reputation for its wine production. The term is not actually a classification of wine quality, but indicates the potential of the vineyard. Sounds good on a label though eh?
Union Champagne has installations across the Avize region of France. The cooperative provides its members with harvesting, pressing, first fermentation (still wine), blending, bottling, champagne (second fermentation), ageing, labelling, packaging, sales and marketing services. This is a huge production house focused on producing high quality champagne.
Tesco Finest Rose Champagne is made from an unspecified mix of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, and you can certainly taste the chardonnay above the other grapes. The dryness cuts through citrus and red fruit flavours and while the label would have you believe this wine has ‘a delicate mousse’ finish, I beg to differ. This is crisp and dry as fuck and as subtle as a brick.
Louis Delaunay Rose Champagne (£19) 750ml 12% Vol
This Champagne Brut Rose is made from 50% Pinot Noir, 30% Meunier and 20% Chardonnay grapes. Meunier is a variety of black wine grape which, until recently, was not acknowledged by producers in Champagne despite making up one-third of their crop.
Meunier gets its name (French for ‘miller’) from flour-like dusty white down on the underside of its vine leaves. Champagne producers preferred to emphasise the use of the more majestic black Pinot noir and white Chardonnay grapes. However Meunier is gaining recognition for the body and richness it gives to Champagne.
You can certainly taste the difference with the Louis Delaunay Rose Champagne which has a smoother more buttery taste than the Union Champagne offering. The Louis Delaunay Rose is also less dry with raspberry and red currant aromas and a citrusy finish. At a similar price point (I think I got mine while it was on offer, around £4 below normal) I think this more expensive tasting tipple is a triumph of the smaller winery over the industrial machine. However, that said that is just my perception as I have been unable to find out much about the winery.
Taittinger Prestige Rose Champagne (£40)
When I bought this wine I was hoping I wasn’t spending £20 extra on the fancy carboard box the bottle comes in and that the difference in quality would be obvious. I’ve had good experiences of £50 bottles of non-Rose Champagne in the past and so it seemed like a reasonable gamble for a celebration at home. Did the gamble pay off?
Well, no not really. My money’s on the Louis Delaunay Rose Champagne which was half the price and had a more subtle taste than the other two rose champagnes featured here.
Taittinger is one of the last great independent family-owned Champagne Houses with 288 hectares of vineyards. Its origins date back to 1734 when the original House was founded by Jacques Fourneaux. Pierre Taittinger acquired the House in the early 1930s, after being stationed in the Champagne region during the 1st World War. Taittinger is the second largest domaine owner in the region with winemaking facilities located in Reims. Their 4th Century Roman cellars, awarded UNESCO status in 2015, 18m underground form the heart of the winery.
They use an unspecified blend of white wine with a high percentage of Chardonnay (at least 30%) for their champagne. 15% of this rose is made up of still red wine from the vineyards of Ambonnay and Bouzy. The over-riding flavour is of the fruit and berries of the red wine and while the champagne is bubbly and crisp, it is also markedly acidic. As an accompaniment to a meal this wine is fine, but I wouldn’t want to have more than one glass as an aperitif on an empty stomach. And, call me a cheapskate with a dead palette, but a flashy box won’t make me pay double the odds again.