The official day for romance is almost upon us, and restaurants, retailers and wineries are pushing the same two concepts of indulgence that surface every year: toasting your love with rosé champagne and pairing wine with chocolate. I’m a fan of both, but this year my Valentine wine pick is frothy pink fizz: This rich, fruity non-vintage Laherte Frères Rosé de Saignée Les Beaudiers Champagne, whose beautiful deep rosy color even looks romantic. “Les Beaudiers” refers to location of the vineyard plots.
Elin McCoy’s Wine of the Week
Price: $70 to $80
Region: Champagne, France
Grapes: 100% Pinot Meunier
Serve with: Caviar, spicy chicken, duck breast
More of Elin's wine picks:
With its heady, seductive aromas of fresh cherries, and smoky spices and racy flavors of berries and minerals, this bubbly is not only ideal for toasting, but also to sip with a long and leisurely dinner.
This Valentine wine pick is unusual because it is made from Pinot Meunier grapes. Of the three main varieties in Champagne, Chardonnay (white) and Pinot Noir (red) are the famous ones, while Pinot Meunier (another red) has always been the least known and most humble. Widely planted, it produces wines that have more direct plushy fruit and expansive berry aromas, but many Champagne makers say they’re also more rustic and less ageworthy.
Not always. Several small-grower Champagne houses challenge that view with cuvées like this lively one from Laherte Frères, which is 100% Pinot Meunier from 45- to 60-year-old vines grown on stony clay soil.
The small, 25-acre Laherte estate dates from the late 19th century. The fifth and sixth generation — Thierry Laherte and his son Aurélien — use biodynamic practices in their 75 parcels of vines and rely on natural yeast in fermentation. Their 10 cuvées, including this one, very much reflect individual terroirs.
Big mass-produced Champagne brands purchase most of their wine and grapes from the region’s thousands of small growers and blend them together. Growers like rising star Laherte Frères make and bottle their own cuvées using grapes from their own vineyards in one or two villages. This kind of “farmer fizz'” has a more personal appeal that’s just right for Valentine’s Day. This hedonistic Rosé de Saignée definitely telegraphs: “I love you.”
Top photo composite:
Laherte Frères Rosé de Saignée Champagne bottle and label. Credit: Courtesy of Laherte Frères