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Wine Advice that Nobody Asked For: Rosé Season

The first day of Spring has come and gone, Passover and Easter are in the rearview mirror, and pastels bespeckle the landscape as flowers bloom and hanami (cherry blossom viewing) season is upon us. This time of year comes with inquiries about the 2022 rosé that have arrived and are still arriving. What marks the official start of the rosé season? In some small circles I’m known as Rosé Joe and, with the burden to bear that mantle, I would contend that it never ended. In fact, I declare rosé 4 lyfe.

There was a time when the only pink wine in the land was Lancer’s, Mateus, White Zinfandel, or if you were feeling real fancy, Tavel. Tavel is one of few appellations in the world dedicated strictly to the production of dry rosé based on the grape Grenache with a few other varieties used for blending. Though the heyday of Lancer’s and Mateus was a bit before my time, wine enthusiasts of a certain age tend to regard it with a nostalgia associated with many good memories of poor decisions.

As rosé has gained more prominence, the first hurdle that it had to clear was the association that all pink wine is sweet. It isn’t. The common question associated with one of our wine displays affectionately known as Rosé Island used to be, “Are any of these dry?” Since the answer is, “almost all of them,” the more common question these days is from someone looking for one that is sweet, and they are fewer and farther between. So I’ll consider the first obstacle cleared.

The second hurdle to clear is the idea that rosé has a limited season and if the vintage isn’t as new as possible, then the wine is shot. If white wine was subject to the same perception, we wouldn’t sell any. I’m enjoying white Burgundy from 2018, white Bordeaux from 2019, dry Jurançon white from 2010, Riesling from the mid-’90s, Chenin Blanc from 20 years ago. Reds of varying styles are subject to the same date range.

So what happens as rosé gets a few years on? More rosé than you would expect drinks well, and pretty consistently, for at least one or two years past the vintage. As they take on more age the flavors, much like in red and white wine, err away from fruity and instead towards savory flavors. This isn’t a good or a bad thing, but a fact of life. Savory styles of rosé, in Rosé Joe’s opinion, have a more varied array of food pairing options.

Of course some rosé should be drunk sooner rather than later, for example spritzy Vinho Verde rosé and those in that style where the bright fruitiness is really the virtue. But even in that specific example the wines won’t fall apart in six months as long as the wine is soundly made and the enclosure is thoughtfully chosen, I’m still drinking 2021 Vinho Verde rosé that is downright delicious (I’m looking at you Quinta da Raza). Speaking of enclosures, the only ones that I’m a bit wary of as a rule of thumb are synthetic corks made of plastic that have been accused of premature oxidation and flavor scalping, but I’ve had 3 year old rosé under synthetic cork that has proven to be just fine.

I drink rosé all year long, and I recommend and sell rosé all year long, because sometimes rosé is a better choice than red or white for a number of food pairings. Think of some of the flavors from red wine with the ability to be served with a light chill. The versatility is endless! The result of encouraging this approach to rosé is that naturally our turnover is pretty good and drinking any rosé older than three years is something of a deliberate rarity at State Line. So let’s keep this rosé season rolling and not get hung up on whether or not it’s too late or too early for the pink drink.

-Rosé Joe, Import Wine Buyer

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