Sometimes on late Sunday afternoons, we like to have a sundown hot tub. A fair amount of the time, we drink a sparkling wine of one sort or another. One Sunday, we decided to open a bottle of Graham Beck Sparkling Rose that we had picked up just the day before while shopping for other stuff. It was on sale and I knew Graham Beck as the maker of a nice, inexpensive Cab, their Gamekeeper’s Reserve. At $16, it seemed worth a try.
The stuff was really tasty, and we thought that it compared favorably to other sparkling rosés that we’ve enjoyed. We knew some of our friends would like it as well, and wondered where it would rank compared to a few of the others we enjoy. We decided to do a blind tasting to go along with a Sunday brunch. We went with three different styles from three regions.
N.V. Graham Beck Brut Rosé (South Africa, Western Cape)
This is what got the whole idea started. We picked it up on sale at $15.99 and can usually find it around that price. I doubt you’d spend more than $20 for it anywhere.
N.V. Schramsberg Vineyards Brut Rosé (USA, California)
Schramsberg is in our mind the best American producer of sparkling wines. The J Schram might be a touch overpriced, but the Rosé and the Blanc de Blancs are both affordable and tasty. We’ve gotten the Rosé as low as $27.99 on sale. It generally retails in the low- to mid-$30 range.
N.V. Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne Brut Rosé (France, Champagne)
This was our French entry, and one of the lower-price Rosés. We got our first taste of their stuff on the clearance rack right before Christmas at the absurdly low price of $22. We’ve picked up the Rosé on sale at $29.99, but normally pay about $40 for it.
That meant that not only did we have something from three different areas of the world, but in three different and nicely stepped price points: around $15, around $30, around $45. We invited five other folks over, ranging in experience from someone just getting into wine to one of Tampa’s resident wine experts.
To make sure that we didn’t contaminate our view of the wines, I opened them just as everyone was arriving, then wrapped them up in identical bags. I tied the top of the bag high enough to not be able to see anything but the lip of the bottle. Gretchyn then mixed them up and numbered them without me looking.
We certainly didn’t have an end in mind. I know sometimes people do blind tastings to prove that the cheap stuff is just as good as the expensive, but that wasn’t the way we were headed. We wanted to get a simple preference from everyone, not necessarily an attempt to guess where they were from. We did tell them that they were all from different regions, but didn’t say which ones. We all agreed that they were all quite tasty, which we already thought. We were happy that our friends agreed. Everyone had three separate glasses so they could move back and forth, tasting each of them, noting the differences or their preferences.
When it came time to vote, we asked everyone to rank them in order of preference. All agreed that they were very close and none failed to measure up. After everyone voted by number, we revealed the selections.
Five people voted for the Graham Beck as the best, two (me being one of them) liked the Feuillate better. Although no one voted for the Schramsberg as number one, more than half of us voted it second. There was really a good spread throughout.
I’ll note that the expert’s opinion was colored by his assessment that one of them was from Champagne, and since it’s the style he prefers, that’s the one he liked best. He was, to our surprise, quite wrong. On the reveal, he had picked the Graham Beck’s. It was a great lesson to all of us that even to the most refined of palates, a wine’s label can sometimes create a prejudice.
The Graham Beck’s has become a nicely-affordable staple around here. We poured it at our holiday party, where it was extremely well-received, and we’re happy to have it on a Sunday afternoon, hot tub or not, any time.