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Four Shades of Pink

It’s difficult to resist the temptation to pour pink Champagne for the upcoming Valentine’s Day celebration – and why would we want to?  First, there’s the beautiful salmon hue of the unopened wine itself. Then there’s the celebratory pop as the cork is gently eased from the bottle. And finally there is the rush of bubbles as we take sip after sip, whether we are drinking the wine by itself or with food.

But even with pink Champagne, there can be delightful variations on a theme. Here are four.

A fresh, non-vintage Champagne that is affordable. The bread-and-butter for Champagne producers through the years has been non-vintage rosé that mainly comes from recent harvests but also has a touch of wine from older reserves. Ask your wine merchant for a grower’s Champagne made by a smaller producer, which usually comes in at under $50.  But for just a few dollars more, you can have a classic NV Ayala Brut Rosé Majeur, a beautiful food wine, mainly from the 2014 vintage with three years on its lees.

A fresh Champagne rosé with a 40-year-old history. Pink Champagnes are one of the few rosé wines that are actually made by adding a touch of red wine to the white for coloring, and just a touch will do it.  NV Champagne Palmer & Co. also does this, but it uses a unique Spanish-style solera system that is 40 years old as the source of its colorant. Starting 40 years ago, Palmer began assembling a red wine cuvée, and in the years since, as wine is drawn off to color the white, fresh red wine is added back to the solera. So today there is a smidgeon of red Champagne in each bottle of Palmer rosé from 40 years ago – and every year since.

A mature, vintage pink Champagne.  Most "current" vintages of Champagne on the market are well-aged wines from the 2008 or 2009 harvests that were matured in the bottle for about a decade before being released.  A good example would be the 2009 Roederer Cristal Rosé, which was one of the first bubbly houses to promote pink sparklers in clear bottles and has since become the Champagne of celebrities.

A classic red Champagne, but one with no bubbles.  A few Champagne producers make a red Pinot Noir-based wine with no bubbles, although as a table wine it must be called Côteaux Champenoise, even though it is made in the Champagne region with grapes grown in Champagne.  One that is particularly interesting, and particularly expensive, is Bollinger's La Côte aux Enfants. It is not only a light, still, Burgundy-style red wine from the Champagne region, it is also rare in that it is not a blend but comes from one vineyard.  If you’re interested, search early, as it is in limited supply.

Celebrating well means having many choices – and enjoying the process of having to decide on just one.

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