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Rosé Comes of Age—Next Up, Aging?

With the rapid rise to respectability of dry rosé, the best pass the cellar test

Posted: May 29, 2014 11:30am ET

By Ben O'Donnell

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.

You can follow Ben O'Donnell on Twitter, at twitter.com/BenODonn.

Vince Liotta
Elmhurst, Il —  May 29, 2014 3:44pm ET
Thanks for this piece, Ben. I must confess when I saw the headline, I thought you were tending toward viewpoints which swim upstream. And while I wouldn't use your experience as endorsement for aging rose in general--most of us are going to prefer most rose's nice and fresh--I do think it points to the great possibilities for drinking many different wines, many different ways and at many different times in their evolution.

If one includes the ocean of jug wine in the equation, then it's fair to say most wine doesn't age. But if one considers only fine wine--the kind found in Wine Spectator's reviews--then I believe there are and should be many possibilities for how and when a wine is drunk and can be appreciated. One only hopes that wine continues to be made in a diversity of styles which allows for someone like yourself to have such a fortuitous experience with those magnums of rose.

Eric Campos
Canada —  May 31, 2014 3:58am ET
good piece. My eureka moment for aged rose came a few years ago by way of a Galil Mountain rose that my folks had picked up in Israel, and promptly forgotten about. When we opened it years later, the bottle had at least five years of age, and it was still fresh and far more interesting than it had been at the time it retailed. I am currently aging a bottle of Domaine de la Rectorie Cote Mer Rose (AC Collioure), which is an absolute colossus, to see how something full bodied fares after a few years (the domaine already holds this back an additional year before release).
Daniel Schoeff
Washington DC —  June 2, 2014 12:25am ET
We just really started drinking rose wines when visiting the south of France a couple years ago. Then, of all things and places, we tried a rose at Roederer Estate in Anderson valley last summer. We liked it so much we ended up buying a case. At some later point we looked at the bottle to find it was a 2010. Each bottle has been more interesting as the months go on. I am told that with the large harvest in 2013 that they will be releasing it again! Hopefully I will be patient enough to let a few bottles sit for a while!
Thomas Bartlett
Ocean Grove NJ —  June 3, 2014 9:45pm ET
Thanks for the interesting and actionable article. Will hold on to the Charles & Charles 2011 in the cellar til next year. The chance of emerging notes of ginger etc. is very intriguing.
Richard Kim
Anaheim, CA, USA —  June 9, 2014 5:00pm ET
I've worried about this same question, as my wine-buying enthusiasm usually exceeds my drinking ability. Thus I've accumulated several roses from the past few years in my cellar. I've had mixed results so far. A 2011 from a small producer in Provence was flabby. However a 2009 Domaine de la Citadelle was still fresh. I have an 08 Sine Qua Non The Pontiff that I plan to open this summer; should be interesting!
Russell Quong
Sunnyvale, CA, USA —  June 9, 2014 10:39pm ET
I found a polarizing Syrah Rose from Barrel 27 in Paso Robles. They had a 2007 (?) and "finally" released another Rose in 2012. The earlier rose had creosote, burnt rubber along with bitter red fruit. Most people do not like it at all, but, well, I bought 3 cases. This rose lasted 4+ years with flavors not changing much, and I'm sure is still going strong. No new flavors but not much was fading.

The 2012 is similar but the roughest edges have been smoothed over. Still a lovely wine and it shows no signs of fading either.

These roses maybe to big to pick up classic aged white notes, but they will last years.
Ben Odonnell
New York —  June 10, 2014 2:14am ET
Sounds like many of you already have rosé-aging experiments underway from producers near and far--do report back if you decide to pop any of those this summer.

Certainly, it's difficult to make broad assessments on the ageability of dry rosé because the potential expressions of the style are arguably as wide-ranging as dry red or white wine and still so unexplored in comparison, and also because aging requires, well, age, and as with other styles that rather recently were anointed "serious"--red Zin, Beaujolais--only the relatively few true believers had been aging them for any significant time.

Dry rosé, I think, is also kin to (perhaps the natural conclusion of?) the movement favoring high-acid, low-brix reds, and I see more and more rosés from the regions where nature and/or winemaking philosophy serves these up. For the growing numbers of wine folks who consider rosé more than an afterthought, I think we'll continue to see impressive surprises in the diversity and complexity of these wines.

Ben O'Donnell
Wine Spectator
Austin Beeman
Maumee, Ohio —  June 14, 2014 6:20pm ET
As a retail buyer, I always appreciate the age-worthiness of premium rose. Wholesalers have such a crippling fear of an 1-year-old rose that awesome deals abound. I'm always on the look out for the $25 Tavel that somebody is closing out for $9.99.

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