Champagne is often thought of as an ‘occasional’ wine — you crack open a bottle to mark a special occasion. Which is fair enough. I would only quibble with what constitutes a special occasion.
Is a birth, a marriage, an anniversary, an indecent bonus or a sporting triumph really necessary? Is it not triumph enough to reach a certain point on a Wednesday afternoon and find yourself thinking, ‘I’m feeling all right and wouldn’t mind a nice glass of bubbles?’
Whatever your threshold, if you’re looking for an occasion – indeed, an anniversary – to warrant opening a decent bottle of fizz, then here’s one for your consideration.
The venerable house of Ruinart, which lays claim to the title of “la plus ancienne maison de Champagne”, celebrated the 250th anniversary of its superb rosé last week.
Pictured above: Extracts from the 1974 Ruinart journal
As usual with the claims of luxury-goods maisons, the picture tends to get slightly fuzzy the closer you look at it. Unusually, there is in this instance a certain amount of documentary evidence to support the brand’s assertion. In other words, they’re probably right.
Either way, what is indisputable is that a good rosé champagne is a truly wonderful thing, and that Ruinart makes very good rosé champagne indeed – a fact of which I was pleasantly reminded over a bottle of 1998 Dom Ruinart rosé in the company of its affable chef-de-cave, Fred Panaïotis.
In the Ruinart ledgers, he told me, the first shipment of rosé, dispatched on 14 March 1764, was referred to as “Oeil de Perdrix” – a poetic term describing a delicate pinkish hue with coppery reflections.
The name evolved over time to rozet, roset and eventually rosé. Other elements of the rosé story changed too, including, significantly, the production process, which shifted from maceration to blending. What, I asked, would that original 1764 vintage have tasted like? Who knows, said Fred.
Doesn’t matter. The 1998 Dom Ruinart, with its beguiling combination of eucalyptus and violet notes, tasted wonderful enough. Happy 250th, Ruinart.