Taittinger Champagne creates its Rosé Champagne cuvees from a blend of red and white wines. This favoured method throughout the Champagne region remains the most challenging, however.

More than just a method, a leitmotif
Producing a Rosé Champagne involves creating a still rosé wine, turning it into champagne and cellar ageing it for several months or years. Winemakers can adopt one of three different methods in order to make a still rosé wine. The first involves using direct pressing (in the same way as for a white wine), enabling rapid separation of the juice from the solid materials for a light-coloured wine. The other two methods involve macerating the juice of the fresh grapes with their skins in order to extract coloured pigments (anthocyanins), aromas and some structure (tannins). A short maceration of several hours results in a rosé wine that is rich in both colour and aromas, but is not very stable over time (rosé de saignée and rosé de macération). A longer maceration results in a still red wine which ensures extended stability of the extracted elements and is then blended with a white wine. This process is exclusive to the Champagne region and is also Taittinger Champagne’s preferred choice for the creation of its Prestige Rosé, Nocturne Rosé and Comtes de Champagne Rosé cuvees.

A viticultural process
The red wines are made from the estate’s massal selections of Pinot Noir. Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger developed environmentally-friendly practices from a very early stage. The whole estate is grass-covered and holds the double certification of High Environmental Value (HVE) and Sustainable Viticulture in Champagne (VDC). Cellar Master Alexandre Ponnavoy joined the company in 2015, bringing a Burgundian twist to a global view of red wine production. Obtaining satisfactory maturity is a constant challenge for this Champagne-based vineyard due to its extremely northern location. “The estate enjoys a controlled plot selection focused on producing distinguished and sought-after red wines, both in the Montagne de Reims (Ambonnay, Verzenay, Mailly-Champagne and Rilly-la-Montagne) and the Côte des Bar (Loches-sur-Ource and Les Riceys),” outlines Alexandre Ponnavoy. A long-standing partnership guarantees high-quality production in Bouzy. In addition to this, explains the cellar master, are “the key stages such as spur pruning, disbudding, thinning out the leaves, tasting the berries and vinification in the pressing centres as close to the harvest as possible.” This viticultural commitment allows the grapes to reach the desired maturity with a view to obtaining high-quality extractable polyphenols (anthocyanins and tannins). 

A vinicultural process
The skins are peeled off the harvested grapes so that only the berries of the fruit remain, while the woody parts of the bunches are also removed as their presence can result in herbal flavours and astringency in the wine, as well as absorption of its colour. Alexandre Ponnavoy introduced “vatting with an initial pre-fermentation cold maceration (10-12°C) for four to five days, followed by maceration with alcoholic fermentation for eight to nine days at 23-24°C.” The first stage allows for extraction and development of the wine’s fruity potential, particularly the fresh cherry notes, as well as softening the tannins and increasing the colour intensity. In the second part of the vatting process, aromatic compounds continue to be extracted, while the wine’s texture simultaneously undergoes refinement. Racking takes place on a dry marc and without residual sugars. After the finishing stage, the red wine’s well-trodden journey continues as it is now added, at a strength of 13 to 14%, to a still white wine. “We’re looking for colour, fresh fruit aromas and ageing potential in this blend,” notes the cellar master. By adding a substantial proportion of Chardonnay, which brings tautness, minerality, elegance and strong potential, Alexandre Ponnavoy and his teams have found a way of creating red wines that remain stable over time, with a very distinct colour, depth and freshness, as well as crisp tannins – without being aggressive. These happy marriages are left undisturbed on racks where they are cellar aged, a stage lasting a minimum of three years for the Prestige Rosé, five to six years for Nocturne Rosé and over 12 years for the Comtes de Champagne Rosé. At which point, the time has come for them to play you their joyful piece of music and meet your culinary aspirations, each and every season.

Text : Geoffrey ORBAN