"Pink bubbles signal that a special meal is about to start," says Stacey Gibson, wine director for The Woodsman Tavern in Portland, Oregon, and sommelier for this monthly popup series. But sparkling rosé is not just ideal for a predinner toast: It's also a powerhouse for pairing with food.
Katie Brookshire, of table WINE in Pacifica, California, explains that the key to rosés appeal is that it strikes "that happy place between red and white." Sparkling rosé, she notes, "delivers just enough of the characteristics of the red grapes that it was made from—giving it the richness and fruits of a full red wine, while maintaining its fresh, crisp chillability factor." The wine's scrubbing bubbles help lift up the creaminess of a cheese plate or cauldron of fondue, and its juicy flavor can make your steak, lobster, or heart-shaped pizza taste even better, too.
We asked sommeliers and wine experts from around the country for their favorite sparkling rosés under $30. Here are their selections.
Domaine Tissot Crémant du Jura Rosé ($26)
Joshua Thomas, the wine director for Frances and Octavia in San Francisco, loves the toasted-brioche-like, yeasty character of this sparkling wine from the Jura region in France. Made from Chardonnay, Poulsard, and Pinot Noir, it's "a bit on the richer side of things," according to Thomas, with aromas of "crushed red fruit, like sour cherries and raspberries." He'd pair it with a duck breast served medium-rare over a panzanella, made with roasted cherries instead of tomatoes to mirror the fruity side of the wine.
Monmousseau Crémant de Loire Rosé ($15)
If you're beginning the meal with a citrus-topped salad like this one or this one, Gibson recommends popping this Cabernet Franc– and Gamay-based sparkler. "The tart minerality in the wine is great with citrus, and the bubbles cut through the creamy vinaigrette." But looks matter, too: "The enjoyment of this wine starts with your eyes: The bright pink color gets your mouth watering before you even take a sip. It's a perfect blend of stony minerality with juicy, strawberry flavors."
Parigot et Richard Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé NV ($25)
Thomas Pastuszak, wine director of NoMad in NYC, figures Valentine's Day is the time to go all out: "When I think of an epic Valentine's Day dinner, decadence, luxury, and deliciousness all come to mind." NoMad serves a seafood course "with oysters, lobster, crab, the works," followed by a roast chicken that's decked out with foie gras, truffles, and brioche. One bottle of wine can see you through both courses: Parigot & Richard Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé NV is Pastuszak's not-too-pricey pick. He assures us that the small family estate "follow[s] the most exacting methods from Champagne" when producing this wine. "It's crisp, refreshing, and bright, so it pairs really well with seafood, but it has enough weight and yeasty goodness to stand up to (and enhance the flavor of) a dish like our roast chicken. Best of all, you could easily fool a well-trained palate into thinking this is truly delicious rosé Champagne [which would be much more expensive]. That's how good the wine is!"
Filipa Pato 3B Método Tradicional Rosé ($18)
For many of us, it's not Valentine's Day without a perfectly cooked ribeye. But eating steak doesn't mean you have to switch to red wine. "One of my favorite bubbly rosés for any richer main course is this fantastic Portuguese sparkler," says Katie Brookshire.
With steaks, Brookshire explains, "there are two ways to go: You either smother your steak in a blue cheese sauce, or simply [add] a little squeeze of lemon. Both are delicious, but one allows the flavors of the steak to be the star. Pairing is the same." While a rich Cabernet will become the main focus of the meal, "a light, bright, high-acid wine acts as that lemon and allows the flavors of your steak to be front and center." But Brookshire warns that "you can't have just any flimsy, crisp wine. You need power yet elegance." The Filipa Pato 3B is made mostly with baga, "a red grape renowned for its power and intensity, with full tannins and plenty of acidity. Even though this is sparkling rosé, some of that intensity carries over, giving it enough oomph to stand up to your steak, but beautiful bright acidity and tangy red fruits to really elevate the flavors. This wine goes through the full 'Champagne method,' and is hand-harvested from 30-plus-year-old organic grapes with all-indigenous yeast, but because it is from a relatively unknown wine region, it's an amazing value." You'll taste tangy red cranberries (or tart strawberries), plus "layers of orange peel and savory herbs and even a little red peppercorn on the finish. Although light and tart, there is a creamy mid-palate while the baga tannins coat your gums, keeping the finish powerful and textural enough for that steak!"
Val de Mer Brut Nature Rosé ($21)
"A go-to for me in the world of sparkling wine is the Val de Mer sparkling rosé from famed Chablis winemaker Patrick Piuze," says Samuel Bogue, wine director of the Ne Timeas Restaurant Group in San Francisco. "This sparkling rosé is made entirely from Pinot Noir, sourced a stone's throw away from Champagne, but for a fraction of the price." Bogue describes the wine as "bone-dry" and says the lack of sugar "highlights hints of tart cherry and watermelon rind that gracefully lead to notes of rose petals and chalk. Best of all, it's extremely delicate, so it won't overpower." His one word of caution: "You might drink it faster than you think, so invest in two bottles."
If you're drinking two bottles, it's probably best to line your stomach a bit first. Bogue's Valentine's pick: Neapolitan-style pizza, with or without tomato sauce. Another fan of the Val de Mer, Andrea Morris, beverage director of Nix in New York, recommends serving it with lobster, since the wine's creamy texture will resonate with the buttery shellfish.
Raventós i Blanc Cava Rosé de Nit ($23)
Shellfish will also find a friend in this fantastic Cava, which has long been a personal favorite of mine (and a frequent sommelier pick). "It's made with mostly white grapes and just a splash of Monastrell for color, so it's a very delicate, elegant wine," says Morris, who recommends sipping it with scallops, crab, or assorted chilled seafood. "You can pretend you're in a quaint bistro in Paris, with a platter of oysters and cockles and shrimp cocktail and flutes of this light pink sparkler." Amy Racine, of Dovetail in NYC, says that the Raventós family owns about 300 acres of vineyards, most of which are planted in chalky soils, "as you would find in Champagne." Racine describes the wine as "fresh, bright, citrus-driven, with a lot of complexity including rose petal, brine, and raspberry tones."
Not into seafood? This wine is also great with charcuterie or little fried snacks. "Arancini, croquettes, or fritters are spectacular with the Raventós. The wine is so tart and clean, it cuts right through the creamy filling of those bites, while bringing out that crunch."
Clotilde Davenne Rosé Crémant de Bourgogne ($25)
Cedric Nicaise, wine director of Eleven Madison Park in New York, keeps Valentine's Day dinner simple, but adds a little luxury. To start, a big bowl of roe or caviar, plus crème fraîche for dolloping on salt-and-vinegar potato chips with the roe. For the main course, a simple roast chicken. And the pairing: Clotilde Davenne's Rosé Crémant de Bourgogne, made in Chablis from Pinot Noir via the Champagne method. "It has amazing acidity, but the fruit is also ripe, so you get tons of red-fruit aromas: cherries, strawberries, raspberries. You take all that and add in the classic minerality of Chablis, and you get one amazing wine!"
Casas del Mar Cava Rosé ($15)
Brian Kane, wine director at Abe Fisher in Philadelphia, keeps his Valentine's Day feast on the light side, recommending a whole roasted or grilled fish as the centerpiece. Alongside it, he recommends Casas del Mar Cava Rosé from northern Spain. "This wine has a pronounced, fruit-forward strawberry and violet aroma. The bubbles cascade for days, and it tastes like raspberries and cocoa," he says. Made with a blend of pinot noir and trepat grapes, "this wine offers the elegance of Champagne without a chance for buyer's remorse." (Kane recommends using the extra cash you save to end the meal with amaro and chocolate.)
Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rosé ($24)
Bianca Bosker, the author of Cork Dork, loves the "delicate, lean, and refreshing" rosé Champagne from Alexandre Chartogne-Taillet of Chartogne-Taillet, but when she can't spare the 50 or 60 bucks, she chooses Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rosé from Northern California. "It's like cranking up an album by the Rolling Stones: It's a total crowd-pleaser that has something for every drinker's palate and gets everyone in a good mood. Expect a round, yet crisp wine with bits of strawberry, a hint of apricot, and a whiff of toasty brioche."
For a Valentine's Day menu, Bosker recommends pairing the Mirabelle with raw oysters. "Their lean savoriness goes beautifully with the acidity and gentle citrus flavors of sparkling rosé. You could also have a fabulous meal featuring Schramsberg's Mirabelle that starts with a selection of meats and cheeses, then continues with a spaghetti alle vongole."