The commune of Riceys in the Aube department of Champagne is a magical place and closer to Burgundy than to its northern Champagne compatriots. We drove down from Reims through forests and glades before arriving in the most picturesque village with beautiful stone buildings, some homes, some wash houses, lots of small chapels and modest shelters dotted around the vines.
It is actually a collection of 3 tiny fortified villages – Ricey-Haut, Riceys-Haut-Rive and Ricey-Bas and is notable for being one of only a handful of communes with 3 AOCs: Champagne, Coteaux Champenois and Rosé des Riceys.
This rosé is a sumptuous treat – far removed from the discreet grey pink rosé that has come to dominate our imagination from Provence and everywhere else trying to emulate its success. Made from Pinot Noir, the grapes are macerated whole and bunch pressed giving a fruity intensity from semi-carbonic vinification (as made famous in Beaujolais) and gives it a subtle but definite tannic structure.
It is a rare treat to encounter one of these wines as only 30ha of vines (out of a possible 300ha) are used to produce it with just a handful of producers persisting in making it. Just 70 000 bottles a year and that too not every year. Potential alcohol must reach 10º naturally and if it doesn’t then producers make Champagne with the grapes instead. Extraordinary!
This is a rosé for real wine lovers – it has remarkable purity of fruit and manages to be both densely satisfying and ethereally light. We were welcomed into the cellar of M Morize where he shared this beautiful wine with us under a stained glass window depicting St Vincent – the patron saint of vignerons. The cellars are beautiful, with C11th & C12th Cistercian vaults, as is the hospitality you will encounter there.
This was an unexpected pleasure on a Champagne tour and I will definitely be going back to explore it in more depth. IF you ever see a Rosé des Riceys on a wine list – don’t miss out, order it immediately.
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Vinho Verde (1)