Champagne: in the pink
Sunday 10 April
Didier Mariotti of Mumm explains rosé
Didier Mariotti wanted to be a brewer but ended up as chief winemaker at Mumm Champagne. I guess they’re not too dissimiliar: yeast, sugar and bubbles. But the Corsican-born Mariotti was perhaps always destined for wine. His grandmother’s brother was Burgundy winemaker Charles Rousseau of the great Domaine Rousseau and his cousin is Eric Rousseau, current winemaker at Domaine Rousseau with whom he swaps Champagne in exchange for Grand Cru Burgundy. We all need cousins like that.
Didier was on holiday in New Zealand but gave up one of his precious days to launch the 1999 Cuvee Lalou, Mumm’s prestige cuvee, in Auckland. The poor guy had to sit next to me badgering him with technical questions with just eight weeks to go until the Master of Wine exam. He said he was going to go for a nana nap after the lunch – I must have worn him out.
While the organisers of the tasting had decided to centre the tasting around how the wine changed in structure between two different serving temperatures, I was keen to know more about rosé Champagne.
Rosé Champagne is the only European wine permitted to blend red wine with white wine to make a pink. Everyone else has to use the saignee a.k.a bleeding off method.
Most houses add a proportion of red wine to their ‘normal’ NV brut cuvee to make rosé. The more red wine you use, the greater the colour, structure and red fruit character. Bollinger uses just 5-6% red wine in its rosé and it is pale – a tinted white as opposed to a red fruited rosé. Mumm has 12% red wine in its rosé and, one-quarter of Piper Heidsieck’s Rosé Sauvage is actually red wine making a deeply coloured, powerful and aromatic pink.
So, why don’t more people use the saignée method in Champagne? Mariotti explained: “It is difficult to control the colour with saignée. It’s ok for making small volumes of wine but with larger volumes you need to maintain the consistency of the colour through the blending of the red into weight.”