I was fortunate to be part of the Media Group of IWINETC (International Wine Tourism Conference) held in April 2015 at Reims Champagne, France. A brainchild of Barcelona based Anthony Swift who runs Wine Pleasures; a company which organises wine tasting tours and workshop events for the wine import/export market, IWINETC is a great forum to unite wine tourism professionals & writers from all across the world. It was while touring the Aube department in the southernmost part of Champagne, close to Burgundy, that I came across this unique & legendary still rosé wine not known much outside France called Rosé-des-Riceys made from Pinot Noir grapes. This is a wine which is said to have seduced the Sun King Louis XIV.
It comes from the commune of Les Riceys which is the largest wine making village in the entire Champagne region. Actually it is not one but three villages, Ricey-Haut, Ricey-Haute-Rive and Ricey-Bas, forming one unit which has been granted three AOC designations, Champagne, Rosé-des-Riceys & Coteaux Champenois, the latter two being the only ones allowed by law to produce a “still wine” in Champagne, an anomaly in the region. And you thought La Champagne was only about bubbles.
So what is so special about this Rosé you may ask? Well for one it is nothing like the rosé wines you may have tasted before. Other than the intriguing aroma and incredible taste of wild strawberries, cooked cherries, violets, hazelnut & liquorice, it has complexity, structure and longevity (yes a rose which can be aged); most qualities not present in the “pink plonk” which floods the European market during summer and which a lot of serious wine drinkers look down upon.
Rosé-des-Riceys is exceptional & rare. Rare, because there are only a handful of producers (just about 15-20) who make this wine and that too only in the best harvests and not every year. Production cannot exceed 70,000 bottles per millésime. Pinot Noir grapes only from the sunniest vineyards are used. These are harvested when they reach the right ripeness and natural sugar. Whole bunches are pressed and vinified using semi-carbonic maceration (the same method used in the making of Beaujolais in which fermentation takes place in the whole intact berry in a carbon dioxide rich environment) This results in a wine which is lightly tannic and very fruity. The colour is several shades darker than the rose wines of Provence. It is matured in the cellar for 3-4 years before being released.
I was lucky to try Rose-des-Riceys from three producers of Les Riceys, Morize Père & Fils, Gallimard Père et Fils & Olivier Horoit. It will not be an exaggeration to say that just the appearance bowled me over, what to talk of the nose and the flavour. Intense deep pink color, aromas of wild strawberries, cherries and dried herbs with an incredible length which stays on the palate for a long time. Suffice to say that it was the most unusual wine I have ever had the pleasure of tasting.
Taking to Olivier Horoit I came to know that no region in France other than Les Riceys has the kind of versatility where, from one grape varietal Pinot Noir, they produce rosé, red, white, white Champagne and a rose Champagne. Olivier makes some wonderful terroir expressive Rosé-des-Riceys and Coteaux Champenois using only organic and bio dynamic methods. His wines are crafted according to his taste and he is a young man driven totally by his passion for wine-making sometimes resorting to unconventional practices which produce some great results.
So in case you are planning a trip to France don’t forget to try out this exceptionally high quality and unique rosé wine Rose des Riceys. Santé!
By : Lavina Kharkwal