To Have the Best Summer, Drink Last Year’s Rosés
My full time gig is selling wine, and I have one personal mission: to break the stigma of past vintage rosé. Consumers tend to favor the newest vintage of rosé—current is king for Provençal imports—but there’s no reason this needs to be the case. Rosé can absolutely last a year or two in the bottle, and some can even taste better with time to settle.
Because retailers are still tied to what their customers will buy—no wine purveyor gets excited about shelves filled with rosé come November—this means deep discounts for those of us in the know. When I stop by a store for an emergency bottle of pink, I always scan for older vintage stuff, usually marked down to less than ten bucks. It tastes just as delicious and saves me money to spend on other wines—or just more rosé.
When buying older rosé, consider focusing on the characteristics of the vintage itself rather than how recent it is. For example. in generally warmer vintages, rosés from colder growing regions of Europe thrive, as the grapes get the chance to showcase some more fruit by taking longer to ripen. (Think of the Loire in France or the Nahe in Germany.) For naturally hotter regions, like Provence, it can be the opposite. For example, 2015 was a mixed bag for south-of-France rosés in particular—hot weather lead to overripe grapes which made sweeter, plusher wines (generally not a good thing in rosé). Meanwhile, stateside, in Washington, 2016 marked a return to acid-driven rosés that will still be rippin’ a year from now, while wildfires in Northern California made 2017s an easy no-go. If this all sounds confusing AF, never fear: a quick internet search will give you all the dirty deets on any recent vintage you see on the shelves.
The basic gist when it comes to buying older rosé is this: the more acid, the more fruit, the longer it will last. Skip the hottest vintages on record from already hot regions, as they might not have the acid to sustain, and opt for vintages that provide equal potential for fruit and acidity.
And when in doubt, these three categories work across vintages for older rosés:
Anything from Tavel
North of Avignon, across the river from Chateauneuf-du-Pape lays France’s OG rosé region, Tavel. These are buxom, dry rosés, deep pink and made from Rhone grapes. They get their practically red color from extended skin contact, which gives them a touch of tannic structure, and makes them ideal for a year or two of aging.
Bandol, a region of Provence along the Mediterranean just south of Marseille, is famed for its pricey, Mourvedre-based wines. Mourvedre is a grape with great potential—powerful tannins, rich fruit, intense minerality, and inherent earthiness. Using it to make rosé can give you a stylistically light, beautiful wine that still has enough power to hold up a few years in bottle. I say "Bandol-inspired" because there are many winemakers here in Washington making knock-out wines from Mourvedre. For example, Latta Wines’ Kind Stranger Rosé, one of my favorites from last year—it tastes positively Frenchy and costs less than 20 bucks.
Put a bunch of sparkling wine away in your cellar (and by cellar I mean the closet or under-the-bed situation where you hide the really good wine when someone is house-sitting for you)—you’ll be glad you did. Usually, Champenoise-method sparkling wine is aged before release, so you know it can stand up to some time in the cellar. A good rule of thumb with bubbles—rosé or regular—is to drink the non-vintage (NV) stuff within a few years and age the vintage wines for 5–10 years. My go-to choice for pink sparkling at the moment is vintage Cava (i.e. Cava that has a year on the label). Made the same way as Champagne, Cava offers exceptional value for stylistically similar juice. Paying $19.99 instead of $199.99 for a vintage sparkling bottle makes opening and aging a whole lot less scary.