Few beverages are more exciting than a bottle of rosé Champagne. Part of the anticipation is the rarity of it, which is intentional---production of rosé has traditionally been kept low by the Champagne houses, in an attempt to stabilize prices on the high end of the scale. Cost aside, there’s something special about opening a bottle of rosé, an aura that hearkens back to the golden age of Parisian night life.
According to legend, Moët et Chandon first became famous for rosé in 1801, when Napoleon purchased 100 bottles of the 1794 vintage. This may or may not be true, but the Emperor did have a close relationship with the house of Moët, which had been founded in Epernay in 1843. He was lavishly entertained at the firm’s guest houses numerous times, and later awarded the Legion of Honor to Jean-Remy Moët in gratitude. Many years later, the house reciprocated by naming its Brut Imperial for him.
Production of pink Champagne began in earnest at Moët in 1920 with the introduction of Grand Vintage Rosé, a wine that---like Dom Pérignon---would only be made in exceptional years. There have been 39 vintages since. 2004 fit the criteria in many ways, beginning with the weather, which was a winemaker’s dream: a long, hot summer, interspersed with just the right amount of rain at crucial times. The Grand Vintage Rosé is not to be confused with Brut Imperial, launched in 1997, which is non-vintage and generally available at a lower price.
Grand Vintage Rosé 2004 ($85), disgorged in 2012, has a pale salmon color, foaming mousse, and tightly spaced bunches of small bubbles. The nose exudes concentrated aromas of red fruits. In the mouth, there’s an explosion of fresh raspberry, wild strawberry and just a hint of rhubarb, framed by strong suggestions of tannin. The texture is deep, rich and resonant (all that time in the cellar comes through loud and clear), and the finish is exceptionally long. This is Champagne for food: It would pair well with a range of dishes from salmon and tuna through wild game, and would not be out of place with red meats. And, of course, it’s delicious to drink on its own.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); for more information, go to amazon.com.