Rosé des Riceys: a unique winemaker's wine

Jun 3, 2021 • 5 mins

A Champagne region appellation that was moribund at the end of the 1980s, Rosé des Riceys has been able to rebuild itself thanks to the sterling work of some wine producers who have always believed in the potential of this unique wine. As surprising as it may seem, there is a wonderful village in Champagne that produces a still rosé wine that attracts the interest of the curious. It is an exceptional wine for cellar-ageing that is perfect for those sommeliers who quite like to step outside their comfort zone from time to time.

For the uninitiated, Les Riceys remains an enigma. A familiar name but impossible to place on the map. This wine originating from the southern end of the Aube department, in the heart of the Côte des Bars, possesses a very striking colour. It is a deep pink that turns brick red over time. Each wine producer carries out a semi-carbonic maceration to obtain the initial hue he/she desires. This technique, commonly used in the Beaujolais region, consists of fermenting lightly crushed but whole grapes (on their stems) in a fairly large vat. The winemaker monitors the process very closely to determine the exact right time to "bleed" the vat (carefully draw off the wine).

And the result is exciting. The colour of the wine is the hallmark signature of each producer.

Among the many producers of this delectable wine, how could we not mention Pascal Morel? The son of a wine producer, president of the local winegrowers’ union for nearly 30 years, he is one of the appellation’s best producers. The Champagne House, now managed by his two children Emilie and Simon, has always been a champion of this gastronomic wine. "At the end of the 1980s, only three wine producers were making Rosé des Riceys". A heresy for this defender of a precarious heritage. "Pierre Horiot, Christophe Defrance and I agreed we would try to convince the families to start producing this local wine again. Rather than produce a wine adapted to its locality, many winegrowers preferred to produce wine for champagne to make more money.

Nowadays the appellation is reaping the fruit of all the hard work carried out. Young talent is emerging, convinced of the potential of this wine. Marie Sophie Defrance, Arnaud Gallimard and Frédéric Manchin represent this generation of wine producers who are breathing new life into the appellation. Meanwhile, Sébastien Bauser is also doing a fantastic job. After completing his vocational training (a “BTS)” in viticulture and oenology in Beaune, he joined his father in 1992. Never short of ideas, he recently invested in a new vat room. "This additional space allows me to separate more plots to enhance the precision of my wines", says the wine producer who is a real Pinot Noir enthusiast.

How could we not mention the leading role played by the Devaux and Alexandre Bonnet Champagne Houses in spreading a bit of the Les Riceys magic?

Michel Parisot and Alain Paillé, the respective cellar masters at these two iconic Champagne Houses, know everything there is to know about the Côte des Bar. The former, the son of a brewer, joined Devaux in 1991. He and his team make a Riceys from the Chanzeux vineyard. "Personally, I like my rosés young and fruity, but this is not what we sell” explains this winemaker who likes to spend his spare time hiking. The latter, Alain Paillé, who is a bit of a music nut, is determined to breathe new life into this Champagne House which belongs to the Lanson group. "A few years ago, I was careful to put aside a few plots because I was convinced of their potential", says this François Béranger fan.

The future looks bright thanks to these wine producers who are seeking to bring out the finest expression of the terroir through a single plot approach.

Les Riceys in figures:

- Appellation created in 1947

- 45 wine producers make Les Riceys rosé

- 866 hectares of vines planted in the appellation

6 Rosés des Riceys to try and to buy

Champagne Morel 2017

Emilie and Simon Morel have taken over from their father Pascal with panache. Meticulously well-maintained grassed vineyards and grapes picked at full maturity. They produce a high-level Rosé des Riceys that is luscious and elegant and a reference for this appellation.

Champagne Manchin : "Pragnon" 2016

Frédéric Manchin is the embodiment of a generation that is trying to shake up the appellation. The smallest producer of Rosé des Riceys, he crafts a wine from the "Pragnon" lieu-dit. With its dried rose petals on the nose and its fresh, supple palate, his 2016 is banging!

Maison Devaux "Chanzeux" 2014

Michel Parisot, the House's iconic cellar master since 1991, crafts a Rosé des Riceys that is tailor-made for gastronomy. The 2014 unfolds with elegant, slightly bacon-like notes. Treat yourself to a glass paired with a lobster roasted in its juices.

Domaine Alexandre Bonnet : "La Forêt" 2018

At this Lanson-BCC group-owned Champagne House, Alain Paillé has been skillfully crafting a terroir Rosé des Riceys since 1986. Undergoing something of a revival, the Champagne House is determined to make the most of its various plots of vines. The "La Forêt" lieu-dit gives birth to a remarkable rosé with a very supple expression after two years ageing in bottle. It is a lovely vivacious wine with soft, powdery tannins.

Olivier Horiot : "Vallingrain" 2016

In the early 2000s, Olivier only sold Rosés des Riceys. It was quite a challenge to begin with but today his rosé is very much in demand, particularly in Paris. His "Valingrain" wine is remarkable. Derived from marl soils, it unfolds with finesse and fine hints of bacon, a delight.

Champagne Bauser : 2014

Sébastien has been working alongside his brother Frédéric since the early 1990s. After completing his wine studies in Beaune, he took over at the domaine with the intention of carefully working the ageing of the wines in barrels whose toast is little influenced by the tannins in the oak. His Rosé des Riceys is immediately seductive with soft liquorice notes, freshness on entry, and a supple, luscious palate.