A Thanksgiving Show-Stopper: Rosé Champagne


Champagne really goes with everything. It’s the best wine for celebrations, to soothe heart-break, to perk up a Tuesday or to get a party started. It goes with lobster, with greasy french fries and (reluctantly) with a basket of strawberries. Sure, the consumption peaks at New Years Eve and rosé champagne gets an extra push on Valentines day. But if you won’t go all in and drink champagne year round, there is another occasion that should be added to the list. Next time you put a turkey on your holiday table, why not surprise the guests with a chilled bottle of rosé champagne? 

Before we get to the brilliance of this combination, let’s explore the most beautiful bubbly for a bit. 
Rosé champagne became famous (or infamous) as the beverage of choice for Paris’ courtesans during the Belle Epoque. The color was pleasing and the style of the wine light enough to keep the ladies in the mood for… exercise. Their preference was so established that Madame Lilly Bollinger has been quoted as forbidding the house of Bollinger to make a rosé in her lifetime - “it’s the champagne of houses of ill repute”, the elegant lady protested. Funny enough, Bollinger’s rosé champagne is now among the very best on the market. When the prestige airline Qatar Airways started serving it in Business and First class a few years back, a surprised purchasing department found that consumption on board exploded and that the customers most likely to order it were “businessmen traveling with colleagues”. Let’s just say that rosé champagne has moved far away from its questionable beginnings. Maybe the last step on that road will be the family holiday dinner. 
Have you thought about how rosé champagne is made? Of the three main grape varieties in Champagne, one is white (Chardonnay) and two are black (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier). The reason they can all be a part of our regular, clear champagne is that all the pigment is in the skin of the two black grapes, so that a quick pressing gives only the clear juice from the white flesh. But for rosé wine, the color of the skins becomes useful. 
Champagne is the only quality rosé wine where it is acceptable to add red wine to the white wine to obtain the color. This style of blended rosé is by far the most common. The red wine must come from the region of Champagne as well. Thus, a small amount of still, red wine is made here from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Because of the demand in rosé wine production, it is rare and expensive. The second method is called bleeding. The name in french, “Rosé de Saignée”, is decidedly prettier… In this method, the skins of red grapes are allowed to remain in contact with the juice a short while to ‘bleed’ off some color (generally a few hours compared to the many days of maceration necessary for a red wine). 
So why would these pink bubbles go so well with your holiday turkey? Well, the champagne still has the lightness and acidity good for a white meat but with a bit more body and structure, sometimes even a touch of tannin, making it ready to stand up to a full dinner. The red fruit notes of the champagne match nicely with the cranberry sauce (avoid a too sweet version of the sauce!) and the acidity of the champagne freshen up the mouth after each bite of those creamy, buttery mashed potatoes. 
As a bonus, your guests will be so enamoured by the luxury of pink champagne and the novel take on the traditional holiday meal that they might not notice that the turkey was cooked dry this year (again). Have I ever used pink champagne to achieve this kind of dazzle and deception? I don’t know what you are talking about… 
Read on for specific wine suggestions and pairing tips:

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