Valentine’s Day is a prime date holiday, as restaurants over-book with couples and stay-at-homers play Rachel Ray. Either way, you’ll need some bubbly for celebration. And pink bubbly at that.
For a long time, rosé Champagne (only from the Champagne region of France) and pink sparkling wine (from everywhere else) were not popular with the general public, the perception being that they were sweet and inferior. But just as rosé table wines went over the top, in the past decade so have pink bubblies.
So now you have many choices from the United States —West Coast, New Mexico (Gruet), Long Island, Pennsylvania (Stargazers)—as well as cava from Spain, spumante from Italy, Limoux and other non-Champy sparklers from France, and many options from the Southern Hemisphere.
In almost all cases, the color in wines comes from the grape skins, and in sparkling wines the exposure to the red grape skins is brief to give just a hint of color and not have too much tannins. Often, the grape used is the dominant red grown in Champagne—Pinot Noir—but in the United States, particularly on Long Island, Merlot is a frequent alternative.
As with all sparkling wines, rosés can be dry or a sweet. If you want dry, it should be “brut.” The flavor of bubbly roses is usually a little fruitier, often with a touch of gaminess or meatiness. In some wines, like most Australian sparkling Shirazes, this flavor can be too over-powering.
And don’t be limited to drink sparklers as a before-dinner aperitif. Due to the bubbles and the acidity, sparkling wines go well with food (our pizza wine), so just buy a bottle to last the two of you throughout the meal.
Recently, I checked some local restaurant wine lists and peeked into some wine shops to get a cross-section of what’s being offered. Most restaurants have at least two sparkling rosés—a high-end and a low-end. Some examples: Caffé Gelato (Domaine Carneros, $33; J, $61), Domaine Hudson (Antech Limoux, $35; Soter $88), the Green Room (Dom Perignon, $450; Perrier-Jouët, $125), Sovana Bistro (half-bottle of Gossett Grand Rose, $70), Redfire Grill (Domaine Chandon, $35), and the Back Burner (Gruet, $30).
Most wine shops have at least a half dozen, ranging from around $10 to more than $100, but the sweet spot (the best affordable dry pinks) is in the $20-$30 range. I found particularly good across-the-board selections at Wine and Spirit of Greenville, Frank’s, and Total Wine.