Why is rosé champagne so expensive?
We’ve crunched the numbers, and we reckon it shouldn’t be.
Sparkling rosé is going gangbusters globally, now accounting for one in ten bottles of champagne produced (a massive explosion from just one in 30 fifteen years ago). And so it should. It’s elegant and eminently food friendly, and, contrary to popular misconception, it’s rarely sweet or gaudy.
The Rosé Recipe
Rosé champagne is made in the same manner as white champagne, with a subtle difference. Colour is achieved in one of three ways.
Most commonly, a ‘blending method’ (‘rosé d’assemblage’) is used, in which a tiny quantity of pinot noir or meunier made as a table wine is added (often only 5–10%, but sometimes as much as 20%). A rapid increase in demand for rosé has recently put pressure on supplies of quality red wine for blending in Champagne.
The ‘Saignée’ method adds free-run juice from just-crushed red grapes, producing the finest, palest wines. A ‘limited maceration’ method produces darker, heavier wines through a quick soak on red grape skins.
Rosé production is tricky, not only in marrying champagne’s acidity with red wine tannin, but in determining the desired depth of colour long before it is set. Yeast is a highly effective fining agent, leaching colour during both primary and secondary fermentations.
Does all this effort justify the price of rosé? On average, it’s around 30% more expensive than its white counterparts. The Champenois justify this on the basis that it costs more to produce red wine than white in Champagne. But is it really that much more? Old vines are required and yields must be kept low to ensure sufficient ripeness, but this does not equate to such a premium in production costs.
Even if the cost of producing red wine to make rosé were as high as double that of the base white wine, an addition of 10% in the blend only increases the total cost of production by 10%. And then there are absurd extremes. Ruinart’s prestige Dom Ruinart Rosé is identical to its Dom Ruinart but for an addition of 15% pinot noir. However, its price is more than double, meaning that the house values its pinot noir at a preposterous €2000 per 750mL! What does it really cost to buy 750mL of decent red wine for rosé in Champagne today? €11.
The good news is that there are Champagne rosés out there at fair prices. The best right now are Dumangin J. Fils Le Rosé Brut NV, Charpentier Rosé Brut NV, Marguet Père & Fils Ambonaicus Grand Cru Rosé 2009, Tarlant Rosé Zero Brut Nature NV, Bollinger Rosé Brut NV and Henriot Rosé Millésime 2008.
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