Valentine’s Day 2023: How To Pair Pink Champagne With Food
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Valentine’s Day 2023: How To Pair Pink Champagne With Food

What makes pink champagne special, and which foods make it sing?

What to drink during the month of love? Pink champagne of course. Here Sarah Hyde explores the wonderful world of pink fizz, getting some expert tips on how to pair it with food this Valentine’s Day.

A Deep Dive Into Pink Champagne

With the approach of Valentine’s Day, the idea of pink champagne exploded into my mind and my next rose-coloured adventure began. My quest led me to Scott’s in Richmond. Was it the glorious festoon blinds in deep dusky rose that called me there? My idea that this is the most romantic restaurant of the moment, or indeed the received wisdom that the ideal food pairing of pink champagne is seafood? I cannot be sure what it was that drew me there, but on a cold January Tuesday I left the cruel world behind for a couple of hours, cocooned in the rosy, romantic glow of the blinds and silver lined walls with an old friend.

Scott's restaurant

Scott’s is loaded with romantic potential and the wine list reads like poetry to any serious wine lover. I was lucky enough to get to talk to Terry Kandylis, head of wine for the Caprice group, about pink champagne. As Terry took me on a wonderful imaginary culinary journey to Dom Pérignon to try vintage rosé paired with pigeon breasts, I really began to understand the structure of this wine. It soon became clear that pink champagne is much more closely related to white champagne than rosé wine.

What Makes Pink Champagne Special?

Below, I have included one delicious sparkling rosé created with the method champenoise for those who simply love rosé. Delicate and delicious, Sparkling de Léoube has a pale onion skin blush and is a ravishing example of rosé wine which has been treated with the method champenoise, but it is not pink champagne. Despite wine trend analytics discussing the uptick in interest in pink champagne as a logical next step to the explosion of interest in rosé, what has become absolutely clear is they are very different wines.

First and foremost, the wine must come from the Champagne region, and it is made using Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and usually Pinot Meunier grapes. Pink champagne is most often blended and includes a percentage of red wine to give the colour, flavour and structure. Produced using the ‘method champenoise’, which involves a double fermentation in the bottle, most of the wines are dosed with a sugar and wine mix to give the wine finesse, shape, and body. This is part of master winemaker’s art and is considered crucial to finishing the wine, giving year on year consistency and continuation of flavour. The exception is Brut Nature which is absolutely without addition. Tannins and colour from the red wine give this wine more structure, but the effect is mostly visual, with colours ranging from pale pink to orange pink and deep pink.

Not all of us can make it to Scott’s this Valentine’s Day, so Terry very kindly gave some suggestions for food pairings. We settled on seafood, as wild wood pigeon breast is not so easily available – although I would love to try it with a pink peppercorn sauce. Integrating red foods into the menu where possible, Terry suggested pomegranate dressing for the oysters and we both agreed on a heart shaped pavlova with cream and raspberries for pudding.

Romantic dinner with candles and wine

Getty Images

How To Create a Romantic Tablescape 

I went to talk to Gemma Martinez de Ana, founder and creative director of luxury homeware store Bondea, about which glasses to serve the wine in and how to present the meal. Gemma’s love of all things to do with table decoration developed when she was a little girl in Spain; she now shares her gift through Bonadea on the Pimlico Road. 

Gemma prefers a Baccarat Coup with a rose in the bottom, and I prefer a St Louis Thistle Crystal Flute with a gold rim. She also shared a charming story, that the first champagne coup was modelled on Marie Antoinette’s breast at Versailles – the perfect anecdote to set the tone for a Valentine’s evening.

Gemma’s other charming suggestion was to create a romantic candlelight picnic. You can make a lovely tablescape without spending a fortune with candles, pretty antique French linen napkins, seashells, and a few flowers. Gemma recommends building the decoration up from a base colour and if you have a cake stand for the desert or some grapes it can become part of the decoration and an etagere (a tiered cake stand) can be used to brilliant effect creating a seafood platter. If you are serving oysters make sure you ask your fishmonger how to open them or get them to do it for you.

Best Pink Champagne and Food Pairings

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Sparkling de Léoube

The Promise of Summer: Sparkling de Léoube

Perhaps the most delicate wine in this selection, it is also the palest. Sparkling de Léoube is a fine rosé wine that has been carefully selected to be treated to the ‘method champenoise’ and delivers fresh sea breeze clean flavours with subtle notes of grapefruit and white peach and a touch of Léoube minerality. Once described as glamour in a bottle it is made from 100 percent Cabernet Franc grapes and is certified organic. This wine delivers a romantic promise of summer in a glass.

Pair with: It pairs beautifully with lobster.

£33, greatwine.co.uk

Louis Roederer Brut Nature

As Nature Intended It: Louis Roederer Brut Nature

With 50 percent Pinot Noir, 37 percent Chardonnay and 13 percent Meunier, 11 percent of this Brut Nature is fermented in Oak Barrels which gives this wine its clean distinctive taste. Brut Nature is biodynamic and without any added sugar, this is champagne in its most natural form, and it’s very fresh and pure as a result. The label was designed by Phillipe Stark.

Pair with: Without the dosage of sugar that other champagnes have, this wine needs to be paired with biodynamic fruit, sweet yellow peaches, and blackcurrant tarts.

£93.99, prestigedrinks.com

Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose

Smooth Operator: Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose

Often considered the classic pink champagne this wine has a glorious glowing salmon pink colour. Created by winemaker Florent Nys with 40 perecent Chardonnay, an equal mix of 30 percent Pinot Noir and 30 percent Pinot Meunier, the wine opens up with citrus notes and has a smooth creamy finish. Dosed with 9g of sugar the magnificent colour is achieved by the addition of 6 percent Pinot Noir. The wine is blended by a committee which includes three family members, (the oldest of whom is 99). 

Pair with: It’s delicious with pink grapefruit tartare.

£68.95, thewhiskyexchange.com

Tesco Non-Vintage Pink Champagne

A Delicious Treat: Tesco Non-Vintage Pink Champagne

This wine is produced using Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes grown exclusively in Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards only.

Pair with: This wine pairs brilliantly with prawns and smoked salmon with a twist of lemon and brown bread and butter.

£23, tesco.com

Lanson Le Rose

Vintage Delight: Lanson Le Rose

This champagne is created with between 30 percent and 40 percent reserve vintage wines – some of which have been aged for 20 years to give the wine a consistency of style. The blend is 53 percent Pinot Noir, 32 percent Chardonnay and 15 percent Pinot Meunier. Its glorious colour is achieved by adding seven percent of a red wine blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. This gives a beautiful mineral crispness accompanied by subtle floral and fruity notes of strawberry, redcurrant and pomelo. 

Pair with: This slight edge of minerality means this wine pairs very well with oysters.

£34.99, waitrosecellar.com

Perrier-Jouet Rosé Champagne N.V.

Art Nouveau Thrills: Perrier-Jouet Rosé Champagne N.V.

Described as voluptuous and well-rounded, it is almost impossible to separate Perrier Jouet from the powerful brand associations with bohemian Paris and the Art Nouveau. This wine is a little bit fruity – the blend is 50 percent Chardonnay and 25 percent Pinot Noir and 25 percent Pinot Meunier. It’s a seductive, beautiful strong pink with good structure. 

Pair with: This would pair best with cooked salmon and red fruits and raspberry or a blackcurrant compote pavlova.

£75, ocado.com