Article By: DAVID SINGER
Champagne and sparkling wines in the last three or four years have gone through a noticeable increase in sales. In fact, in 2OO6 sparkling wine sales were higher as a share of the market than its share at the millennium - with an increase of 2.9 percent versus the most popular wines. The majority of this growth is rather recent. From February 2OO4 to January 2OO6 Champagne and sparkling wine have increased ten percent according to ACNielsen data. In March 2OO6 to March 2OO7 this increased another four percent. What is really interesting is with that four percent sparkling rose increase by forty percent. Growth at this level in the sparkling wines - at a rate less than 1O% per year - is what the industry wants. A steady growth model is preferred as Eric Guerra director of brand management & sales at Mumm Napa says: ". . . I think off-the-charts growth is exciting, but we are a luxury category and if I see an enormous pop it might be something that came out that's not necessarily good for the category."
This is intriguing, as rose and sparkling rose have, pardon the phase, been treated as the red-headed step child in the international wine world for years. Rose in this country has been bastardized by the taint of White Zinfandel, even though rose sparkling wine has been an interesting, premium sub category of a usually expensive but consistent segment of the market. It is important to note that growth has not been driven primarily out of holiday sales. Champagne and sparkling wine sales as an overall category outside of the holiday period increased by twelve percent between 2OO4 and 2OO6, and between 2OO6 and 2OO7 again by six percent. Indeed, the growth in sales could partly be attributed to the increased marketing and promotion of Champagne and sparkling wine via the retailers and wineries with campaigns that focus during off holiday period times.
The increase of sales could also very likely be attributed to an increase in consumer awareness about wines in general and their understanding that sparkling wine is excellent with food of almost all kinds. Sparkling wine has always been an exceptional wine to pair food with. The natural high acid coupled with the many different styles of sparkling wine allows it to be adaptable to some difficult pairings. Rose sparkling wine is excellent with many game birds, duck and light meats such as pork.
Another strong element of this growth is the extremely hot rose market which crosses both still and sparkling wine areas. At present it is not completely clear why pink is so hot right now, but the evidence that the phenomenon is occurring is without question. Most Champagne houses didn't make rose Champagne until the 197Os, even though Veuve Cliquot made the first rose, shipped in 1775. From that day and age, until advancements in techniques were made, all Champagne used to have a least a tinge of pink hue from the pigments of the Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. But some houses thought it a point of skill to be able to produce a Champagne that was white, notably Madame Bollinger in the 194Os when she stated that all Champagne should be white.
A turning point came in the 195Os when Pommery produced a rose champagne for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. At this event her sister, Margaret, took quite a fancy to it. Subsequently, she was photographed with other members of the chic international set, a cigarette in one hand, a flute of rose champagne in the other. Feeling the pressure of a rarefied demand, the Champagne houses responded. Pol Roger started making rose in 1955 with Laurent Perrier following in 1968, Bollinger in 1976, and Krug in 1983. With this increased level of popularity, naturally sparkling wines followed suit.
Rose sparkling wine differs from typical sparkling wine in that the pink coloration is added in either one or two ways. The most common is the blending of a small amount of red wine after the time of degorgement. In some uncommon situations the red grapes are allowed to macerate slightly to achieve the slight pink color.
As rose has had such resurgence, with one exception, all the wines below will be sparkling roses.
WESTPORT RIVERS BLANC de NOIRS 2OOO Rating sparkling wines from around the world (excluding Champagne), I just cannot help but start with our very
own Massachusetts. In the past I have been very impressed with the sparkling wines from Westport Rivers. They use the champagne method and some of their wines are aged longer than some Champagne houses. However with the Blanc de Noirs 2OOO,
it was a disappointment. Though this is not a rose, it's a blend of the classic red grapes, with the far majority (87%) being Pinot Noir. The sulfur was screaming out of the glass making the wine nearly impossible to taste. I asked the representative if this was how the bottle was supposed to taste and they replied in the affirmative.
PIERRE SPARR CREMANT ROSE NV Alsace has always been a fun location for sparkling wines. With nearly all the grapes allowed to be used in its production, Gewurztraminer for example has being one exception, it has been a source of what is classic for Champagne or Germany. In the past the Riesling blends from Alsace have been of superior quality than most of the Sekt I've had the in past. The Pierre Sparr Cremant Rose NV naturally follows the Champagne model as Pinot Noir is the only red grape allowed in Alsace. Aged eighteen months on the lees and the Champagne method is used. Here is another instance where I speculate to disagree with a certain wine magazine. Notes of wild strawberries, earth, white chocolate with a balanced and solid finish.
WYNDHAM ESTATE SPARKLING SHIRAZ NV If Alsace has been a fun location for sparkling wines, then Australia is the life of the party. Throwing tradition out of the window, there have been some strange and superlative sparking wines made with namely Shiraz. At the uninteresting end they are out of balance in their acidity and residual sugar. The quality end of the perspective, though different, are truly wine finds. Spinning the non-vintage style, there is a sparkling shiraz made via a solera style system with the addition of older wine from the 196Os to 197Os plus some of one of their passito red wines. Unable to secure a sample of this wine, a quality every day selection of Wyndham Estate Sparkling Shiraz NV fits just nicely in this category. Pleasantly bitter chocolate, tar, jammy red fruit and smoke with just a hint of residual sugar, I kept on looking around for some pulled pork to enjoy this with.
WEINGUT MICHLITS, FRIZZANTE, BLANC de PINOT NOIR 2OO5 Austria is certainly known for Gruner, Riesling and Zweigelt in this country but not for sparkling wine, especially rose. From the Biodynamic Estate of Weingut Michlits, is the Frizzante, Blanc de Pinot Noir 2OO5. Made by the Charmat system, it certainly has not suffered in quality because of it. Tasting of wild strawberries, raspberries, with clean minerality throughout, elegant and refreshing.
ROGER GOULART CAVA ROSE Spain has been long known for its Cava, and this is certainly one of the more unusual sparking Cava roses. The grapes you often see for Cava are Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada, with Chardonnay being recently allowed. Roger Goulart Cava Rose is made with none of these. Almost taking a page out of Australia, it is composed of Mataro and Garnacha. If Rhone was allowed to make sparking wine from these grapes, it would certainly taste something like this. Black cherry, cedar, pepper and a little smoked meat are at the core of this wine. Unusual, yet delicious. -DS