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Elin’s Wine Pick: Rosé Champagne for the Holidays

NV Charles Heidsieck Rose Reserve Champagne

NV Charles Heidsieck Rose Reserve Champagne

The holiday season is a time for wine indulgence, and to me that means fizz from Champagne, the only region in the world entitled to use the name on the label. At the New York Wine Media Guild’s annual Champagne lunch, I tasted this good buy Charles Heidsieck Rosé Reserve, a crisp, elegant and sophisticated non-vintage bubbly with a seductive pale pink color and a lot of complexity for the price. A combination of bright red fruit and spice flavors, with an overlay of toastiness and a creamy texture, this wine is best when not too chilled to reveal its tantalizing aromas.

Elin McCoy’s Wine of the Week

NV Charles Heidsieck Rosé Reserve Champagne

Price: $50 to $70

Region: Champagne, France

Grapes: One third each Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, with 6% still Pinot Noir for color

Alcohol: 12.5%

Serve with: Apéritif, spicy appetizers, roast duck or pork

Also on Zester Daily, Elin McCoy's selections for best-buy party wines:

» 2011 Morgan Sauvignon Blanc

» 2010 Calcu Cabernet Franc

A decade ago, pink fizz was only a small percentage of the Champagne region’s production. But demand continues to boom and rosé bottlings are now up to 8%. Most big houses as well as small growers make at least one for their portfolios; sadly, they cost more than their regular non-vintage or vintage brut counterparts.

Rosé Champagne appeal

Who knows why rosé Champagne has become so fashionable? A top sommelier insisted to me that its popularity is because the wines look prettier and are “more fun.” The color is wonderfully celebratory, romantic and appetizing, and the wines — like this one — are full-bodied and very versatile with food.

The current Charles Heidsieck Rosé Reserve, released this fall, is a blend of equal parts Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier from the 2007 vintage plus 20% older reserve wine — that’s what gives it structure and complexity. As with most rosé Champagnes, a small percentage of still Pinot Noir wine was added for color.

I think of Charles Heidsieck as a wine insider’s Champagne house that deserves to be better known. Though the name is nowhere near as recognized as that of its bigger sister company, Piper-Heidsieck, the firm has a long and colorful history. Charles-Camille Heidsieck, who founded the eponymous house in 1851, was the first Champagne producer to visit the U.S., where the inveterate society partygoer was nicknamed Champagne Charlie. Last year, Charles Heidsieck and Piper-Heidsieck were bought by EPI, a family-owned French luxury group.

This year, former assistant winemaker Thierry Roset became Charles Heidsieck’s chef de cave and reformulated the blend. I think this version of the Champagne house’s Rosé Reserve is the best yet.

Top photo composite: NV Charles Heidsieck Rosé Reserve Champagne wine label and bottle. Credit: Courtesy Charles Heidsieck winery