Champagne Castelnau: Pairing Pink Champagne with Food

Champagne Castelnau Brut Rosé 

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Champagne Castelnau Brut Rosé

Champagne Castelnau Brut Rosé 

photo provided

A rosé specifically designed for food

Champagne Castelnau have long made a rosé Champagne with food in mind. As cellar master Carine Bailleul says: “At Castelnau, the rosé is made specifically to accompany a meal.” The wine, based on 54% Pinot Meunier, 25% Pinot Noir and 21% Chardonnay, has two elements that give it its body and texture: 38% of the blend is from older reserve wines that have more depth and resonance, while 15% of the blend is actually red rather than white wine – this is what makes the wine pink. This blend is then aged for three years and gets rounder and smoother in the process.

Dosage: a key pointer

But there is another element that plays a role in food pairing and that is dosage. Dosage is the final adjustment of Champagne and decisive for the style. It is governed by an addition of sugar dissolved in wine after disgorgement and before the bottle is sealed with a cork. Because Champagne has a naturally high acidity, a small addition of sugar will act as a flavour enhancer rather than a sweetener and even a good portion of sugar will not turn a Champagne into an outright sweet wine – just into a lusher, rounder, more lavish version of itself. It is for this reason that Bailleul started to experiment with different levels of dosage – in the same Champagne.

Castelnau’s experiments

Champagne Castelnau’s rosé usually comes with a dosage of 10g/l of sugar – which makes it a brut Champagne. But for the sake of experimenting with different food, cellar master Bailleul dosed her rosé at different levels – and then commissioned a caterer to come up with specific and often surprising food pairings. The terminology of dosage level is strictly governed, so you always know what dosage level your Champagne is at – here is the table:

  • Brut nature            0 to 3g/l of sugar (not dosage, from unfermentable sugars)
  • Extra brut               0 to 6g/l dosage
  • Brut                         6 to 12g/l dosage
  • Extra Dry               12 to 17g/l dosage
  • Dry                          17 to 32g/l dosage
  • Demi Sec                32 to 50g/l dosage


Bailleul's Champagne pairings

Castelnau Rosé Brut Nature 0g/l: Body very slender, lovely and fresh, taut and bright, wonderfully fresh, brisk and mouth-watering.

With whipped goat's cheese, fennel tops and grapefruit pesto: the goat's cheese is really accentuated by the wine but the pairing sings via the grapefruit zest element in the fragrant pesto. Both cheese and pesto are robust – but the brut nature stands up to this.

Castelnau Rosé Extra Brut 5g/l dosage: Has a slight hint of berry sherbet, of wild strawberry and more aroma, more charm than the brut nature. The palate is still taut and bright.

With ham hock and pistachio terrine with apple cider jelly: here, the saltiness of the ham hock harmonises with the subtle sweetness of this extra brut dosage. But the brut nature also works – if you love saltiness that is.

Castelnau Rosé Brut 10g/l: The nose is more expressive and comes with a subtle aroma of rosehip tisane and more of that red berry sherbet. The palate is distinctly more fruity and wonderfully fresh. A slightly phenolic edge also comes to the fore which lends more texture.

With crispy lamb shoulder, roasted garlic labneh, toasted lemon and cumin: the rich, spicy creaminess and aromatic warmth of this meaty dish absolutely sings with the Moroccan accents of this lamb dish.

"There is harmony and resonance – this is an eye opener and the most compelling reason ever to have Castelnau’s rosé with your Moroccan-spiced lamb. So roast lamb and pink Champagne – go for it!"

Castelnau Rosé Extra Dry 18-20g/l: The nose is of ripe Red Delicious apple and the palate also has much of this ripe apple flavours and a real sense of mellowness, countered by this Champagne’s lovely freshness. That phenolic note is also there, lending a sense of citrus pith.

With sticky duck, spiced plum and sesame: the dish itself is kissed by sweetness but also has deep, aromatic umami savouriness and plummy fruitiness: again, a perfect accord between wine and food. Clearly there are Chinese five-spice and hoi sin elements give us a signal that these spices, combined with savoury sweetness are a natural match for demi-sec Champagnes. So next time you order that Peking Duck, do not forget that this is a killer match.

Castelnau Rosé - Demi-Sec 33g/l: Again that note of ripe Red Delicious apple, with the palate rounded, smooth but lively with mousse. Again that lovely, pithy phenolic note appears on the mid-palate. There is much fruitiness here that comes across as generosity rather than sweetness. The roundness also accentuates the length.

With toasted coconut rice pudding and macerated cherry: this dish itself has no acidity and thus its sweetness stands out on its own (without being sugary in the least). The demi-sec corrects this in the most amazing fashion and shows how subtly sweet desserts are lifted, enhanced by demi-sec Champagnes. Remember that next time you have a subtly sweet dessert.