Fourteen Shades of Pink

Are you a Rosé Champagne aficionado? If so, you’d have loved Wednesday’s blind tasting event at The Finest Bubble! Prompted by Alice Lascelles, of Financial Times’ How To Spend It fame, we took little encouragement to put on a showcase of the best sparkling Rosé’s around. As regulars at TFB events will confirm, if there’s going to be a tasting we believe it should be done properly – that means blind and with a broad range to compare.

As such, we drafted a list of champagnes we thought would make for an interesting comparison. Initially allowing for around 6-10 different Rosé’s, our ability to eliminate any was compromised by our desire to taste them all, resulting in an impressive final line-up of fourteen Rosé’s. In strictly alphabetical order (for now):

Bollinger La Grande Année Rosé 2005
Charles Heidsieck Rosé Millésime 2006
Dom Pérignon Rosé 2005
Dom Pérignon Rosé P2 1996
Dom Ruinart Rosé 2002
Gosset Grand Rosé Brut NV
Krug Rosé NV
Laurent-Perrier Rosé NV
Laurent-Perrier Alexandra Rosé 2004
Moët & Chandon Rosé Imperial NV
Pol Roger Rosé 2008
Ruinart Rosé NV
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé 2006
Wiston Estate Rosé 2011

The range of Rosé Champagnes to be tasted

A good mix of ten different Champagne houses, seven different vintages, some non-vintage classics and even an English sparkling wine. A comprehensive line-up, if we may say so ourselves!

Alongside The Finest Bubble, the experts reviewing the Champagnes were Alice Lascelles, Richard Bampfield MW (bampwine), Simon Stockton (Sugar & Yeast) and Matt Segal (Frederick’s).

Once everyone was settled, we let the games begin! First, a mystery apéritif was served with a prize waiting for anyone astute enough to correctly identify the champagne. With fourteen to choose from, we decided to re-serve the apéritif blind later in the main tasting, allowing our experts a chance for comparison throughout.

Eventually, we were onto the main event. After deciding to split the fourteen competitors into three flights (of five, five and four), we were presented our first five. Immediately apparent was the colour differentiation… Number’s 1 and 2 had that lively ruby-pink tinge we’ve come to expect from the younger non-vintages, whereas the other three had a more salmon-orange hue typically seen in older vintages.

The first five rosé’s causing some debate..

However, not wanting to influence each other’s opinions, we kept our views mostly private, discussing our thoughts on each flight once everyone had had a chance to taste them all. It was difficult to confidently make any predictions as to their identity with nine champagne’s still to be tasted, but we were scoring the champagne’s as we went using TFB’s online scoring system.

The second flight of five Rosé’s

After lengthy discussion, mostly regarding the interesting colour differentiation and the confusion Number 3 was causing with it’s odd oaky, oniony aromas, we moved onto the second flight of five….

Colour differentiation between the first five

Again, there was an immediately obvious colour difference between these five, with Number 9 displaying that bright ruby hue seen in Number’s 1 and 2. Number 6 was the talk of this round; the dusty, okay aromas leading some at the table to believe they’d identified a style typical of a well-known Champagne house and Alice revealing the aroma inspires an image of “a naked girl in bed with a smoking gun”. Whilst we weren’t providing that level ofentertainment, the tasting was already fascinating – an odd, high acidity and rhubarb palate from Number 7 throwing some off, whilst Number 9 was generally considered quite brash and undeveloped.

Finally, we were presented the last four in the line-up. After a quick sniff and sip, there was an immediate general consensus that this round contained some real stunners.

Number 11 in particular had a real richness of peachy fruit and great length that was enjoyed by all. TFB’s Nick was

convinced Number 14 had a real sweetness typical of only one Champagne house and was quick to cast his vote. Here we were with that ruby-pink glow again from Number 13, convincing Matt it was Laurent-Perrier Rosé NV – a popular hit at Frederick’s.

The last flight and final four Rosé’s

With all fourteen now out, we were afforded our first opportunity to compare them all against each other. After a few top-up requests for certain number’s (invariably the favourites, but it was purely for research purposes we assure you), it was time to finalise our predictions, rate all fourteen rosé’s, cast our guesses for the apéritif competition and see if anyone could spot the English sparkling!

Time to make our predictions….

Once happy with our fourteen predictions, it was over to the IT Department to take the stage and reveal the all-important data. Collected live throughout the tasting, the data showed the average rating of each champagne (out of 20, allowing for half points), which chief wino had correctly identified the most and which champagnes were most frequently recognised.

Predictably, everyone was most interested in which champagne had scored the highest, as I’m sure you all are now. So, without further ado (*drum roll please*), feast your eyes on our experts’ blind ratings below:


Rank No. Brand Score RRP
1 6 Dom Pérignon Rosé 2005 18.8 £265
2 11 Charles Heidsieck Rosé Millésime 2006 18.3 £95
=3 12 Dom Pérignon Rosé P2 1996 18.0 £850
=3 5 Bollinger La Grande Année Rosé 2005 18.0 £100
5 10 Laurent-Perrier Alexandra Rosé 2004 17.8  £250
=6 7 Wiston Estate Rosé 2011 17.5 £40
=6 14 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé 2006 17.5 £180
=8 4 Krug Rosé NV 17.3 £245
=8 8 Gosset Grand Rosé Brut NV 17.3 £66
10 13 Laurent-Perrier Rosé NV 17.1 £60
=11 3 Dom Ruinart Rosé 2002 16.6 £230
=11 2 Ruinart Rosé NV 16.6 £60
13 1 Pol Roger Rosé 2008 16.5 £75
14 9 Moët & Chandon Rosé Imperial NV 16.1 £50

Firstly, bravo Dom Pérignon Rosé 2005! A worthy winner and one that was identified early by the panel, with three of five correctly recognising it. Dom Pérignon’s distinctive smoky nose and flavour were the architects of its exposure. Sometimes, the new vintages do it best! Very excited to see how this develops in the future.

A noteworthy performer was Wiston’s English sparkling. Many commented on its unusual character with high acidity and seemingly overripe fruit, but scoring joint 6th considering its competitors is a significant achievement. Even more so considering the price – at just £38.45 a bottle from TFB, it’s some £200 cheaper than some of the champagnes it beat. Interestingly, four of our panel also correctly identified it during the tasting – the knowledge of its English heritage clearly not negatively impacting our panel’s rating. A true humdinger from Wiston!

Also worth mentioning are Charles Heidsieck’s and Bollinger’s most recent vintage Rosé releases, placing 2nd and joint 3rd, respectively. Comparatively affordable (considering their prestige company), these two really stand out as high-performers. Rated 19/20 by The Finest Bubble, the Charles Heidsieck just blew us away with its richness of fruit and cake-like character, and three of the panel correctly picked it out. Notably, no-one identified the Bollinger, but it’s dusty, smoky character was a real hit and it fully deserves it’s place on the podium.

Two great performers, bravo Charles Heidsieck and Wiston

Of the non-vintages, Krug came up trumps. A surprise for TFB, it’s not one that we taste frequently, but it really stood up against the rest. Unsurprisingly, only one of the panel correctly picked it out, which goes to show how underrated Krug Rosé is. The non-vintages in general were identified by that bright ruby-pink hue that was commented on throughout. Whilst all NV’s placed in the lower half of the final table – probably a fair reflection given the list – they were very drinkable and proved their potential to compete. The only real disappointment was Moët, tasting a bit harsh and unexpressive which is strange considering it’s usual drinkability, perhaps there was an issue with the bottle on the day.

The two most elusive Champagnes on the day

Finally… the apéritif competition. Unfortunately, there were no prizes given as everyone was wrong! Although four of the panel correctly identified Gosset Grand Rosé Brut NV during the tasting, not one of them realised it was the same champagne served on arrival. I guess we’ll just have to drink that magnum of Dom Pérignon Rosé 2005 ourselves then…..

Overall, a fantastic tasting and a great opportunity to compare Rosé Champagne’s properly – blind and with a broad range. Now what on earth are we going to do next, Alice?

Look out for Alice’s article in FT’s How To Spend It soon.

“Can I have more of Number 6, please?”

Tasting Notes

The following tasting notes are The Finest Bubble’s, but scores shown are the group averages.

Dom Pérignon Rosé 2005 – Richly coloured, pink rose amber gold colour. Lots of smoky notes on the nose with abundance of rich red fruits, like redcurrant and raspberry and when you taste you get even more fruit, with an almost meaty character, packed full of redcurrant fruit flavours and a woody, pencil shaving-esque finish. Weighty but smoky and a hint of roundness, this is simply sublime, definitely DP! 18.8

Charles Heidsieck Rosé Millésime 2006 – Has strong red amber colour with huge richness of fruit immediately apparent, big nose of peaches and hints of fig. When you taste you get even more complexity, like dried fruits you get a great fruitcake, just delicious! Great length, this one’s a stunner with plenty of acidity giving it ageing potential. 18.3

Dom Pérignon Rosé P2 1996 – Has that lovely salmon-orange colour, typical of something this age. Packed full of dark fruits with a hint of onion and menthol, that reduces with time in glass. Lots of black cherry and raspberry and an explosion of strawberry fruits and wonderful acidity on the finish. 18.0

Bollinger La Grande Année Rosé 2005 – Strong amber gold colour and initially that damp cellar nose comes through, more time in the glass and the fruit comes out. Lots of peach flavours on the palate, this is round and delicate with hints of toasted nuts and dried apricots. Everything is very precise. Favourite of the first five! 18.0

Laurent-Perrier Alexandra Rosé 2004 – Really interesting colour, bronze-orange. A hint medicinal on the first impression on the nose, then lots of rich fruits start to emerge. Packed with fruit, rich and broad with lots of peachy and raspberry fruit, lots of layers. Hint bitter finish, but in a good way. 17.8

Wiston Estate Rosé 2011 – Light pink colour and initial impression is very ripe summer fruits, peaches and raspberry character. On the palate lots of raspberry and hints of rhubarb flavours. Quite high acidity, very drinkable. 17.5

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé 2006 – Bright strawberry colour with hints of amber gold. Lots of strawberry and peaches and hints of redcurrants and a hint of sweetness that often suggests. Tattinger. Lingers long, fascinating depth of fruit that goes on and on. 17.5

Krug Rosé NV – Delightful rich salmon colour with hints of gold. An initial wack of oak on the nose and loads of dried fruits that just come through more on the palate. Lots of peaches, nectarine, dried apricots. Very broad and bone dry and lingers long, great quality. 17.3

Gosset Grand Rosé Brut NV – Very pale colour, again with the dusty cellar aroma. Lots of peaches, strawberries and nectarine with bright acidity and slight bitter finish, positive bitter! 17.3

Laurent-Perrier Rosé NV – Ruby-pink, almost ruby red colour. Probably a non-vintage. Nice, bright nose with distinct layers of rich red fruit, lots of raspberry, cherry and redcurrant and just so precise, acidity beautifully balanced. 17.1

Dom Ruinart Rosé 2002 – Salmon-orange colour. Very distinct nose, bit oniony to start and then the fruits come out with quite a creamy ripe chardonnay feel. Orange blossom, peachy with hints of smokeyness. 16.6

Ruinart Rosé NV – Very bright berry colour, similar to the first and light fruits, the expected raspberry’s and strawberry’s abundant. Nice and fresh, bit dry, a simple construction. 16.6

Pol Roger Rosé 2008 – Bright pink-salmon. Lots of juicy strawberry and hints of orange and apple,  quite rounded mouth-feel with a dry finish. 16.5

Moët & Chandon Rosé Imperial NV – Bright pink. Fruit seems quite subdued gets hints of strawberry and raspberry and quite simple, hint of roundness and acidity seems prominent. Maybe not a great bottle? 16.1

Now for a glass of the worthy winner: Dom Pérignon Rosé 2005