Rosé on Valentine’s Day—a conventional image, surely—but an alluring one nevertheless. We’ve repeatedly featured the shockingly affordable wines of Guy de Forez and today’s rosé is probably the best value of them all. When it flaunts a mouthwatering array of red fruit and vibrant minerality at just over $40 it commands our attention, especially as Champagne becomes more expensive by the year.
By delivering value wine brimming with mineral panache and ripe fruit, Guy de Forez is proving to the large houses that grower-producers can compete on quality and do it at lower prices. Wines like this also play a vital role in reshaping how we think about and ‘use’ Champagne: this is an excellent and authentic bottle of wine to enjoy with family and friends, not a wealth signifier to flaunt in front of impressed/intimidated guests. Put this refreshing sparkler up against any other rosé Champagne in this price range (if you can find one) and I guarantee it will come out on top. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, an affordable treasure and easily one of the shrewdest by-the-case purchases you’ll ever make. We’ve got the supply, so feel free to stock up!
Sylvie and Francis Wenner farm about 30 acres of estate-owned vines in Les Riceys, which is located in the Aube—one of Champagne’s major growing regions (and most southern). Their vines are rooted in soils of clay and Portlandian/Kimmeridgian limestone. Yet, despite their proximity to an iconic Chardonnay terroir (Chablis), about 90% of the Wenners’ vineyards are planted to Pinot Noir—this is the variety of choice down here in the Aube. The centerpiece of their property is a beautiful 17th-century stone building that houses the winery and its vaulted caves underneath. Sylvie and Francis Wenner now run the family operation with a respect for history and tradition. The Wenners do their bucolic setting justice by farming sustainably, seeking to eliminate or at least minimize chemical inputs at every turn. They are certified by a body called Terra Vitis, which occupies a sort of mid-point between ‘traditional’ farming and organic/biodynamic.
For their Brut Rosé, the Wenners harvest everything by hand and though labeled as non vintage, all fruit hails from the superb 2012 vintage; this will be one for the history books, nearly everyone was blessed with immense concentration and superb levels of acidity. An interesting note for this rosé—which lends to its exuberant fruit and lively style—70% of the Pinot Noir goes through a two day semi-carbonic maceration (à la Beaujolais) and the remainder is directly pressed, the go-to method in Champagne. All fermentation takes place in stainless steel and malolactic is eschewed—lots of freshness and precision here. The final blend is 100% Pinot Noir and it aged in bottle for nearly four years before being blessed with a dosage (sugar addition) of 9 g/l. With the vintage and lack of malolactic fermentation, this is a perfect amount; it’s seamlessly integrated.
In the glass, Guy de Forez Brut Rosé exhibits a brilliant salmon-pink color with deep strawberry hues and silver reflections on the rim. With energetic beads rising from all angles, I could enjoy this wine purely off sight. I won’t, though, because the palate is just too enticing. Ripe red fruit and delicate florals lead, with the highlights being wild strawberry, raspberry, white cherry, cranberry puree, rose petal, grape stem, and wild red flowers. A supporting bed of crushed rock minerality lifts the wine, along with a perfect push-pull of tension and acidity. On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied and squeaky-clean. The fruit is pure and concentrated with a mineral presence that zips around your mouth and a lingering finish that is dominated by red fruit. This is a refreshing Champagne that will immediately reward you, though you can expect it to develop over the next couple years. Pop and pour in all-purpose white stems around 50-55 degrees before or after dinner. It’s versatile enough to completely satisfy either option. For pairing, keep it simple—a cheese and charcuterie spread that includes this take on beef carpaccio. Cheers!
Côte des Bar (Aube)
Pinot Noir 100%
Limestone & Clay