Wine should be two things: classy and fabulous, to paraphrase Coco Chanel. Sparkling rosé fits these adjectives well. The wine is great fun as summertime fizz, yet it somehow rises elegantly above all the hot-weather hysteria swirling around pink wine. Rosé has a palette that ranges from light salmon to fuchsia and a delightful effervescence that lifts the flavors and tickles the tongue. And, as it happens, some very smart, strong women champion these pretty, bubbly, expressions of the vine.
I’m always curious about new wines and model/actor/entrepreneur Christie Brinkley has been posting lately about Bellissima, her new organic Italian line. At my favorite wine shop, the Bellissima sparkling rosé ($20), featuring an artistic image from Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus,” caught my eye. As usual, one thing led to another and I walked out with an assortment of sparkling rosés that all happened to share in a sense of viniferous girl power.
Celebrity-branded libations can be tricky. I was rather disappointed by a mediocre effort from one of the Real Housewives of New York. But Brinkley lives on the South Fork, which is part of Long Island wine country. She’s often spotted at the wineries, so I’d imagine she knows her wines. Her Bellissima line is made in Treviso, Italy. It’s an area famed for prosecco, which is not produced by the champagne method (in which a second fermentation happens in the bottle), but by the more economical charmat (tank) method, where the bubbles happen in large pressurized tanks.
The Bellissima sparkling rosé was a pleasant surprise. It’s very dry, as is the current fashion for rosé, with a pale orange-pink color and delicate strawberry on the nose. It’s on the lighter side for dinner, but would be lovely as an aperitif or accompaniment to a lunch of lobster salad. Like most tank-made styles, it needs to be ice cold or it will quickly lose its fizz.
Croteaux Vineyards is a North Fork winery that does an incredible line of pitch-perfect rosés. Consulting winemaker Alie Shaper is a creative force in the industry, known for an innovative approach that takes her more experimental wines right to the edge. I was excited to taste the just-released 2015 Cuveé Merlot Sparkling Rosé ($29). It’s made by the champagne method of three different clones of merlot. It has that Holy Grail of all sparklers, a persistent mousse, which means the bubbles don’t fizzle out within 30 seconds of being poured. Each sip effervesces anew and tastes of watermelon, kiwi and white peach. I’m particularly impressed by the pure pink color. That’s one of the hardest qualities to achieve with rosés since wine has a natural tendency toward orange shades.
The queen of the genre is the Veuve Clicquot Rosé ($55). It was first made by Barbe Clicquot, the most famous woman in wine history and a founder of one of the greatest champagne houses in France. She took over Maison Clicquot at the age of 27 when her beloved husband François died suddenly in 1805 (hence the honorific “Veuve,” which means widow in French). This was an audacious thing for a woman to do back then, but she was by all accounts exceptionally business-savvy and talented. Her most important invention was the riddling rack, which clears champagne of yeast residue by gravity. She also created the first blended rosé by adding a little red wine to champagne.
The Veuve Clicquot Rosé includes 12 percent red pinot noir added to the non-vintage Yellow Label blend. As it’s poured, an aroma of rose petals rises from the glass and there’s a smell of fresh salinity like the cool ocean breeze on a sunny day. The color is a light copper and the flavors are a complex play of mandarin, Turkish Delight candy and toasted almonds. It’s pretty spectacular. This is definitely a treat for celebrating life’s achievements, not least of which is being a successful, pioneering woman who elevates pink, sparkly wines.