Rosé, along with pink sparkling wine and rosé Champagne, is considered to be a classic summer wine – it is part of a fantasy about an ideal summer with excitement, sea breeze, freedom, fresh love affair and strawberries on a hot day.
Only you know how many days fitting into this fantasy you’ve had in your life – but alas we all can count on the fingers of one hand how many proper summer days we’ve had this summer, which is now officially over. To celebrate the inevitable, I opened a couple of rosé sparkling wines I enjoyed during the last few months, whatever the weather – NV Forget-Brimont Brut Rose 1er Cru Champagne and 2008 Graham Beck Brut Rose South Africa.
I use both of them for my tastings when we try these wines blind. The game goes like this: two wines are served in identical black bags with only numbers on them. I tell the guests that one of the wines is a rosé from New World, and another one is a posh Champagne. After pouring the wines I ask two questions: to guess which is which and then choose the favourite.
A bag with number 1 that I habitually use for this Champagne gets lots of comments even from the people who in the beginning say a few times “I don’t know anything about wine”. All of sudden these non-experts become quite talkative and spot all the right things about this Forget Brimont Brut – almonds, strawberries and this typical bready aromas that reveal a Champagne. A bottle with number 2 on it gets praise for being light, with prickly bubbles and not too distinct acidity.
This wine is refreshing, with intensity of ripe fruit. I love the moment when it comes to choosing the favourite – with no link between identity of the wines the majority of people prefer number 2 to number 1. But the moment they start thinking about the bag with Champagne, they say they positively, definitely prefer it to a bag with a New World wine in it.
At this point I congratulate Champagne producers – they still enjoy marketing any sparkling wine can only dream of. The idea that “Champagne is posh so I should like it” seems to be implanted in too many brains – though actually many people don’t really like Champagne at all. Even non-vintage Champagne for many is way too acidic and not quite approachable because of these yeasty, briochy notes on the nose and on the palate. Vintage Champagne is even more demanding – its weight and complexity comes as a shock to unprepared.
If you don’t like these bready characteristics, be careful with Champagne in general – and certainly try to avoid vintage Champagne. It will save you both money and disappointment, not to mention the necessity to pretend you like the stuff. In terms of being food-friendly, cheap and cheerful companion 2008 Graham Beck Brut Rose South Africa does the job well.
But if you like Champagne and want this quality of creamy mousse, layers of honeyed brioche and vibrant acidity that only Champagne can give you, go for Forget-Brimont. Even if it’s a non-vintage wine, it still has balance and pronounced flavour that often comes only with your vintage Champagnes. It is fruity enough to be a good aperitif, but has substance to stand pairing with food. It is light but well-structured; a slender body with strong bones. After all, you need more serious wines in autumn – this one will not taste worse when leaves and fantasies are gone with the wind.