Last weekend, we travelled to The Savoy to meet with Ruinart Champagne head winemaker Frédéric Panaïotis for an educational vertical tasting of four vintages of the prestige cuvée Dom Ruinart Rosé. With a comparison of Ruinart Rosé NV from bottle and magnum also on the agenda, it promised to be an enjoyable morning.
Generally famed for its Blanc des Blancs cuvées, Ruinart was actually the first house to produce a rosé champagne. Archived records reveal that they first shipped a rosé as early as 1764, the shipment log describing it as ‘pheasant coloured’. Frédéric told us that rosé champagne was initially made by dyeing white wine with a dark red wine made from elderberries! Apparently the resulting cocktail was quite rustic in flavour and the method was banished in the 1890s, long after Ruianrt had transitioned to the blending technique it still adopts today.
The first Dom Ruinart Rosé was produced in 1966 and sold in 1973. The assemblage always uses Dom Ruinart Blanc as the base wine, with red wine from the same vintage blended in – and both are therefore usually made. The dosage varies between 5 g/l and 10 g/l, depending on the vintage. When Frédéric joined the house, dosage was typically 12 g/l. Whilst acknowledging that some dosage is needed to prevent oxidation at disgorgement, Frédéric prefers Ruinart to be more reductive in style and his winemaking is thus very conscious of avoiding oxygen.
Most interestingly, Frédéric shared insight into the importance of the accuracy of colour when creating rosé champagne at Ruinart, stressing: “no colour needs to be the same.” With the use of a sophisticated colour chart (pictured left), he explained how they measure colour intensity and hue as bottles age. Traditionally, the non-vintage may start a luminous violet (G10 on the chart), and soften to the more traditional salmon pink (I9 on the chart) after ageing. “Regular testing really is the key to making consistent rosé,” Frédéric told us, and this is achieved through weekly disgorgements. Although he couldn’t reveal exactly how much volume of rosé champagne Ruinart produce, he hinted it was in a similar range to Bollinger and Louis Roederer.
The current vintage is Dom Ruinart Rosé 2004. A Dom Ruinart Rosé was not made in 2006, as the strength of the Pinot Noir wasn’t quite there.
Ruinart Rosé NV
55% PN, 45% CH, inc. 16% Red Wine | Base Vintage: 2014 | Reserve Wine: 20-25% | Ageing: 3 years on the lees | Dosage: 8 g/l
Lovely rose petal nose. Raspberry and strawberry aromas, light peach and a hint of tannins. Nice clean finish and one of the best bottles I have had. Quite dry finish.
Ruinart Rosé NV Magnum
55% PN, 45% CH, inc. 16% Red Wine | Reserve Wine: 20-25% | Ageing: 3 years on the lees | Dosage: 8 g/l
Has gone quite reductive on the nose. Quite noticeable power of fruit and has a robustness to it. Has more weight and longer lees ageing than the bottle. Quite fuller and richer, seems to have more dosage but that is the weight of fruit.
Dom Ruinart Rosé 2002
80% CH, 20% PN, inc. 20% Red Wine | Ageing: 9 years on the lees | Disgorged: September 2012 | Dosage: 5.5 g/l
Quite minty and spicy on the nose. Loads rosehip, blackberry and some real power and weight on the palate. Lots of lees character, spiciness and red wine tannin. A real mouthful.
Dom Ruinart Rosé 1998 Magnum
85% CH, 15% PN, inc. 20% Red Wine | Ageing: 13 years on the lees | Disgorged: January 2012 | Dosage: 5 g/l
Lovely upfront nose. Really quite spicy and aromatic and delicacy really sums it up. Redcurrant, blood orange, grapefruit and mushroom flavours on the palate. Sits with a beautiful texture: silky and with nice acidity and warmth. Very elegant.
Dom Ruinart Rosé 1990 Magnum
83% CH, 17% PN, inc. 20% Red Wine | Ageing: 14 years on the lees | Disgorged: May 2005 | Dosage: 9.5 g/l
Has a hint of oxidation coming through. Strong apple caramel notes and lots of heat. Was a ripe harvest and perhaps this is slightly falling off of its peak. Quite medicinal on the palate and has a menthol, eucalyptus character.
Dom Ruinart Rosé 1988
80% CH, 20% PN, inc. 20% Red Wine | Ageing: 14 years on the lees | Disgorged: May 2005 | Dosage: 10 g/l
Has a lot more character of age, so old tea and caramel flavour. Showing quite a lot of raisins and seems quite acid dominant. A charming finish, this is surprisingly youthful for nearly thirty years of age! Very good.
(FAO Ruinart lovers: Earlier this year, Frédéric announced an exclusive new late-release champagne on Twitter only. Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs La Réserve 1998 is an oenothèque release that has been aged for fifteen years on the lees, kept (crucially), on cork – a process that decelerates ageing, paving the path for increased complexity and richness. The La Réserve bottles are riddled by hand before being disgorged (also by hand) and left to rest for a further year to achieve maximum complexity. Hand-labelled and individually numbered, these artisanally-produced bottle are incredibly rare. More information can be found on Ruinart’s La Réserve website).