Rosé season started in March at my local wine shop, even though winter would persist in New York for another, oh, month or so. One day, with temperatures soaring to the lower-tolerable range, a gaggle of magnums appeared on an endcap near the front of the store. I knew the rosé, from a respected Southern Rhône house, which usually went for about $10 to $12 for a 750; here, magnums were $10, or $16 for two. Seemed like a buy, so I bought one.
Only after I got home, opened and began to drink a very tasty rosé did I investigate more closely. In fine print, there was the vintage: 2011. One assumes rosé is of the previous harvest, even in March. I've met people who think rosé "goes bad" if you don't drink it practically out of the tank, and like summer movie season, rosé season starts earlier every year.
I later asked the store manager where he found the stuff. The importer, he told me, had more or less forgotten about a few pallets in the corner of a warehouse. This importer is not in the business of selling wine gone south, so before offering, they tasted the rosé. Then the store manager tasted the rosé, then I tasted the rosé. It was perfectly good, still fresh and fruity but beginning to develop some secondary complexity in traces of ginger and tarragon—and at less than half the price of the 2013 vintage of the wine.
Dry rosé as a category has been elevated to the fine-wine conversation with remarkable swiftness. Provence, the rosé capital of the world, exported 3.6 million liters of the juice to the U.S. last year. That's 2,400 percent more than in 2003.
Of the 150-plus rosés featured in Wine Spectator's June 30 issue, 46 are priced at or above $20, which is not a price many drinkers followed rosé to five years ago. The priciest are in the company of pretty serious collector quaffs, like Château d'Esclans Garrus from Provence at $100 (NB: that's a 2012) and Valentini Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo at $90 (a 2011).
But can these wines hang in the cellar with their price peers? The reasons for drinking rosé right out of the tap—they're fresh, fruity and a fit for the sultry weather of their time of release—are as obvious as the reasons for aging it are obscure, so far. We don't have all that many examples of how dry rosé ages because the whole thing about aging is it takes years, and when dry rosé started heating up, drinkers were sold on it as a quaff for the moment, even for a single season.
But winemakers—in rosé strongholds like Côtes de Provence, Bandol and Tavel, but also Rioja and Paso Robles—are now putting out rosés ready to rock but also confident enough to stretch out for a few years of bottle evolution. Some producers, as we've seen, even cellar them themselves. Maybe this is the summer you forget a few bottles in your cellar, too.
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