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Château Brown Bordeaux Rosé 2017

Château Brown Bordeaux Rosé 2017

I spend more time thinking and talking about rosé than I do drinking it. Earlier this year, after a long day of tasting at Vinovision (it’s a hard life), I was enjoying an over-priced beer in a Parisian bar with when the topic of rosé came up. My drinking buddy, who hailed from Saumur, was happy to confess that he drank a lot of rosé, whereas I had to admit I drink barely one bottle per year. My lack of interest is partly driven by climate; up here in Scotland the climate rarely calls for rosé, while perhaps down in Saumur, or even further south, it surely deserves a place among the essential food groups. I remember back in 2005 I spent a week’s holiday near Bandol, with all the family. Apart from the theft of all our beach towels (they were drying on the line one evening, and the next morning all that remained were the pegs) the most enduring memory was just how delicious those rosé (and white) wines from Bandol were.

There has been something of a ‘rosé revolution’ in recent years (so I am told) and it seems that the Provençale style of rosé is now one no savvy winemaker should ignore. It was during Vinovision earlier this year, indeed on the same day I found myself supping that expensive beer (€20 for 500ml; admitting that feels very cathartic, especially as we had a second round), that I the tasted the latest releases from Lionel Gosseaume, who knows all about selling rosé. His 2017 Touraine Rosé Les Galipettes, featuring Côt, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, and a little splash of Gamay, was worth a taste. It was pale, cool, fresh and tense, and Lionel joked that his wine “respects the standards imposed by the Côtes de Provence, necessary if you want to sell your rosé”. By this Lionel really means it has that typically pale and winsome hue, but there was more to the wine than that as, to be frank, it was delicious.

Château Brown Bordeaux Rosé 2017

It isn’t just savvy winemakers in the Loire Valley who are learning how to make rosé more friendly to modern tastes and trends though. The style is popping up in Bordeaux as well. I have to confess I have had something of a love-hate relationship with Bordeaux rosé over the years; I have had too many examples that represent nothing more than a saignée of the vats, the fruit picked at the optimal time for producing a red wine but then a portion taken off and channelled into a rosé instead. It never works that well, too often soft and viscous, with too much candied fruit and too little acidity. And then there is clairet; while I respect the historical relevance of this deeply coloured and occasionally tannic rosé to the region, it isn’t a style I have really warmed to for my own drinking.

Down at Château Brown in Pessac-Léognan, however, a few years ago proprietor Jean-Christophe Mau identified a parcel of Merlot which he decided to pick solely for the production of a rosé. Immediately this gives the wine a great advantage, as he picks the fruit earlier, holding on to the acidity in the grapes, keeping an array of fresher and brighter flavours. Even though this cuvée is 100% Merlot, not a variety I associate with great rosé (not like Pineau d’Aunis, Grolleau or even Cabernet Franc) it has lovely precision and lift. In the glass the 2017 Bordeaux Rosé from Château Brown respects, as Lionel would say, the standards for colour imposed by the Côtes de Provence, exhibiting a pale salmon-pink hue (the photograph above doesn’t do it justice; the wine is a lot fresher and paler than it looks there). What really impresses though is the aromatic profile, which kicks off with strawberry and red cherry-stone fruit, perfumed with a little vanilla lift, but also showing a minerally freshness. It is this minerally, sherbetty, crushed-rock character that I find so enticing, and it sets this wine apart from so many sweet and simple examples of Bordeaux rosé I have tasted over the years. It feels fresh, dry and yet full of fruit on the palate, with raspberry leaf and cherry stone flavours wrapped up in a pithy, minerally, acid-fresh style. This is a very good rosé, and it is remarkable to think this is made entirely from Merlot, as it possesses so much energy and verve. And it is sure to provide better-value drinking than those beers in Paris. 94/100 (23/4/18)

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