Friday, June 27, 2008

Wine of the Week: Paul Déthune Brut Rosé Grand Cru

Pierre and Sophie Déthune, of Champagne Paul Déthune, grow seven hectares of vines, all in the grand cru village of Ambonnay. As you would expect for an Ambonnay grower, the majority of their vineyards are planted with pinot noir, which makes up about 70 percent of their total holdings.

Déthune’s entire range is worth seeking out, from the sleek, lively Brut to the deeply-flavored, barrel-fermented Blanc de Noirs to a rare Ambonnay Blanc de Blancs (sold only in Japan and Italy). This week, I’ve selected their rosé for my Wine of the Week, perhaps because it seems appropriate for the sunny, summer-like weather that we’ve had in Champagne lately, or perhaps just because it’s so deliciously slurpable.

Déthune has an extremely unusual method of making this wine, which can’t really be classified as either a saignée or a traditionally blended rosé. In fact, it’s almost the opposite of a traditionally blended rosé. First, the pinot noir grapes undergo a short maceration, giving the juice a pronounced color that’s slightly darker than the final product: “It’s not red, and it’s not rosé,” says Déthune. To this reddish juice, he adds about 20 percent of chardonnay, both to lighten the color and to add finesse to the blend.

The result is a rosé champagne that is more vinous than overtly fruity. The color is extremely attractive: bold and vibrant but not as dark as many of the saignées that are on the market. On the nose it’s quite floral, with notes of rose petal and orange peel, although a deeply concentrated core of red fruit emerges on the palate, turning intensely plummy on the back end in both its flavor and its sense of acidity. It’s shapely and focused, constantly underlined by chalky notes of soil, and it demonstrates superb balance from start to finish, making you simply want to drink more.

Paul Déthune is imported into the United States by Valley View Wine Sales, Glen Ellen, CA; Grand Cru Imports, Souderton, PA; and Belle Epoque Wine Imports, Miami, FL. Valley View’s suggested retail price for the Brut Rosé is $53.


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