Abby Hocking

Most pink wines are made for immediate drinking, but don’t ignore those that blossom in the bottle.

Roger Morris
July 02, 2018

A rosé wine is supposed to be fresh, floral, fruity, vibrant and great paired with food. Right? Tell that to Spanish winemaker María José López de Heredia, whose current release of Viña Tondonia Rosado Gran Reserva is from the 2008 vintage – a full decade old. While it still has vibrant acidity and is a great food wine, its floral aromas have mellowed into those of aged rose petals, and the wine’s fruitiness is no longer that of fresh-cut strawberries but instead has the haunting flavors of sun-dried apricots and peaches.

López de Heredia is unusual in that she is one of the few winemakers in the world to purposefully make a rosé that ages in the barrel and in the bottle—the way a red wine would—before it is released.  But there are also quite a few winegrowers who craft their rosés to reward consumers who want to drink them young but also want to enjoy them again in a couple of years—fresh and vibrant when the cork is pulled or the cap unscrewed, yet capable of being transformed into a more complex wine within a few years.

Take Kathleen Inman, winemaker and co-owner of Inman Family Wines in Sonoma County, who makes a rosé called “Endless Crush” that she romantically dedicates to her husband. She says, “As it ages, the fruit-forward nature softens, and the more subtle flavors of herbs de Provence and rhubarb come to the fore, while the strawberries and watermelon are secondary. The texture also changes – softer, more velvety.”

“If a rosé has good acidity and maybe a touch of tannin from the short skin contact to help structurally, then it could potentially show some interesting flavors with some age on it,” explains Catherine Bugue, director of education for the Napa Valley Wine Academy.

Some European rosés, especially from the Bandol AOC and the larger Provence region in Southern France, as well as those from Spain and Portugal, have traditionally had aging potential because some winemakers have fermented or aged at least part of the vintage in older wooden casks to add complexity and to complement the wines’ natural acidity and vibrant fruitiness. This tradition is where the Rioja-based López de Heredia found her inspiration. Her rosé or rosado is a blend of the red Garnacha and Tempranillo grapes, whose brief skin contact before fermentation gives the wine its pale color, and a touch of white Viura. It is aged in barrels for four years and then fined with egg whites to remove the sediment. Unfiltered, it matures for several years in the bottle before being sold.

Julia Kemper, who owns an eponymous winery in the Dão region of Portugal, ages her “Elpenor” rosé, made from Touriga Nacional grapes, in the bottle for two years “to allow the oxygen to intensity the aromas, the flavors and the savory components.”

Meanwhile, two of the world's most-lauded rosés—Domaine de Tempier Bandol rosé, made along the Mediterranean coast and Sacha Lichine’s Château d’Esclans “Garrus,” made a few miles east between Saint-Tropez and Cannes—are both aged in oak and are great examples of rosés that taste fresh and vibrant in their youth, yet become more complex as they get a few years older.

Back in the United States, Anthony Vietri, owner/winemaker of the small Va La Vineyard in Avondale, PA, makes a rosado called “Silk” from a blend of lesser-known grape varieties—Corvina Veronese, Barbera, Carmine, Petit Verdot and Nebbiolo—that pairs great with food, enticing sommeliers at fine restaurants in nearby Philadelphia to add it to their wine lists. The current release—2015—was aged in barrels for 14 months. “Silk is very extractive and fruit-forward with great natural acidity and strawberry and mushroom-y flavors,” says Jon Medlinsky, co-owner of Philly's Martha restaurant. “I pair it cold in the summer with our local goat cheeses and warmer in the winter with duck prosciutto with peppercorns.”

And, of course, there are the queens of aged rosé that should never be overlooked—Champagne vintage rosés that are usually released eight to 10 years after the vintage. A great example is the Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Brut Rosé 2009. “The more time a Champagne spends on the lees [spent yeasts and other sediment that is later separated], the finer the bubbles that we get in our vintages,” says Möet’s cellar master Benoît Gouez.

The one drawback of falling in love with aged rosés, however, is that many of them come at a higher price, a reflection of both the additional time and work it requires to produce them as well as the reputation of the wine producers. But you only live once—or in the case of these superlative rosés—maybe twice.

Here are six bottles to try:

Viña Tondonia Rosado Gran Reserva ($35)
Despite its aroma of aged rose petals, this wine's still got a vibrant acidity, which, coupled with its fruity flavors of sun-dried apricots and peaches, makes it a great one to pair with food. 

Château d’Esclans “Garrus” Côtes de Provence Rosé 2016 ($85) 
Dubbed by some critics as perhaps the world’s best rosé, it has flavors of dried peaches and apricots and a touch of creamy, cheesy whey with a savory finish and mild tannins. Try it with poultry in a light vegetable stock.

Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé 2017 ($44) 
Fresh peaches and dried apricot flavors dominate this lively and assertive wine, accented by a lightly spicy, textured creaminess whose flavors linger long after you’ve swallowed. Great with dry-smoked salmon.

Inman Family “Endless Crush” OGV Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir 2017 ($38) 
The flavors here are those of strawberries and fresh-cut citrus with vibrant acidity.  With a few years of age, this would be great served with a flaky, berry tart.

Julia Kemper “Elpenor” Dão Rosé 2014 ($18) 
Lightly gamey with flavors of crisp grapefruit paired with great acidity and light, dusty tannins. Pour this now – or later – with roast ham.

Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Brut Rosé 2009 ($80)
In spite of its age, there is a freshness and pleasant assertiveness to this wine, yet it is very smooth with light cherry flavors and fine bubbles. Did someone mention caviar and foie gras?