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Truly Dry Rosé

September 14, 2013

In theory, rosé should receive a lower dosage than other champagnes : the addition of red wine imparts extra fruit (which can be read as sweetness), and it also contributes a textural richness. Yet in practice, many producers actually dose their rosés higher than the rest of their champagnes.

The typical justification for this is to say, "My clients demand it," or, as something of a variation on this, to fall back on a tired and sexist cliché : "Women like it." (You’d be surprised how often I still hear this in Champagne even today.) Another contributing factor, possibly, is the French tradition of serving rosé champagne with dessert—rosé has always been sort of an anomaly, an odd man out, and the French have never quite figured out where to insert it into the meal.

As you well know, I am not at all against dosage, or even necessarily a partisan of low-dosage champagnes. Dosage exists for balance, not sweetness, and every wine responds differently. Just because a rosé has ten or eleven grams of dosage doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s overdosed. Vilmart’s Cuvée Rubis, for example, is not low in dosage, yet it’s one of the finest rosé champagnes on the market.

However, it’s also rewarding to see an expression of rosé at a low level of dosage, and historically this has been difficult to find. There are, of course, terrific examples such as Bertrand Gautherot’s Saignée de Sorbée, or Cédric Bouchard’s Le Creux d’Enfer, but these exist very much on the fringe. There are rosés that behave more like red wines, such as Larmandier-Bernier’s Rosé de Saignée, and these can be delicious.

But what about a classic rosé, a wine that’s delicate in body and pink in color (rather than red) ? I thought about this the other day as I was tasting the latest release of Ployez-Jacquemart’s Extra Brut Rosé, pictured above. Elegant, lacy and lithe, it presents a pure and harmoniously fragrant core of fruit, while its finish is tense, chalky and dry.

There are others being made today : Tarlant has had notable success with its Rosé Zero, a rare example of non-dosé rosé champagne. J.-L. Vergnon has recently released the Rosémotion, an extra brut rosé dosed at 3 g/l ; Gonet-Médeville also makes a fragrant, lively extra brut rosé. >From Bérèche, the Campania Remensis is one of the most exciting new rosés in Champagne.

It’s encouraging to see these, and other rosés like them, because it demonstrates that Champagne producers are taking rosé seriously, and treating it as a real wine. Let’s hope that more producers follow suit.

Peter Liem