Changing Faces of Wine
The sage Ferris Bueller once quipped that “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” This is true in the wine world too. Trends pop up and disappear so quickly that staying current can feel like a roller coaster ride and, sometimes, I just need to stop and look at what is around. So, this is what we’re doing in this, the first, Sunfish Somm Session – We’re going to stop and smell the roses.
This Somm Session isn’t meant to be prescriptive nor proscriptive – you get to like what you like and drink what you like. Don’t take this in any way, shape, or form to be us telling you what to like – we’re doing this just to help you find more things to like!
One trend that isn’t fading away, thankfully, is Rosé. It is, however, changing and that is a good thing. Twenty years ago, Rosé was just white zin. Ten years ago, Rosé was anything and everything you could get hands on. Five years ago, it was only wines made the vintage before. Three years ago, it was the summer of the Bro’se. Two years ago, Rosé was all about the Frosé. This year’s trend for Rosé is looking backwards – more and more customers are asking about Rosé wines that have some age to them - wines that are a few years old instead of the just finished (and rushed out the door sometimes incomplete); wines that have been pushed over the last few years.
So old Rosé, what gives?
Buy Now and Age ...
What gives is that just like every other style of wine out there, Rosé has a set of wines that are better to drink when they’re older rather than younger. Traditionally wines from Bandol (in Provence) were the stalwarts of long life for Rosé. The wines are built on a base of Mourvedre and Grenache – two grapes that under the right set of conditions make long lived wines in their own right – and have a current of acid running through them backed up with ample fruitiness. That triple-threat combo in Bandol Rosé leads us to get wines that drink just ‘ok’ in their youth but really start to shine as they get older. A couple of great examples are the wines of Domaine Tempier and Domaine de Terrebrune. Set them aside for a few years, drink them just slightly chilled, and get ready for some delicious wines.
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Whereas Bandol Rosé wines are released just the year after their vintage there is a whole other set of wines that only get released a few years after their vintage. Wines like Clos Cibonne and Chateau Musar only get released to the public after they’ve spent time in the winery. The Clos Cibonne is aged in very large barrels, called foudres, and under a very thin layer of yeast, called fleurette. The combination of the foudres and fleurette act to give the wine a small, slow, and metered dose of oxygen before it’s put into bottle. The wine here sits in the foudres for a year before being bottled and sold – the newest is the 2016 vintage. Chateau Musar is made a little differently … roughly 95% of the wine is from white grapes with a touch of red fleshed cinsault added just before going into a barrel for a year. After that year in barrel the wine is aged in the bottle at the winery until they decide the wine is ready to drink … the current release is 2014 and was just put out to the public! Because of the fleurette, the Clos Cibonne has a fresh orange peel kind of appeal to it whereas the Chateau Musar has a brighter and more lemony-fresh sense.
In the end it makes sense that we’d see a shift away from wanting just those beautiful, light, and refreshing Rosés that we’ve seen in the last bunch of years. We’re all growing up (some of you, like me, are finally maturing) and starting to look for that elusive ‘what else’ in our Rosé. A good place to find that new feeling is by looking backward. It might be hard to keep your grubby mits off the wines in the short term but if you do manage to hold off you’ll be rewarded.
Oh yeah, sometimes it’s neat to retry a wine that you have no expectations of. This fits with the ‘Old Rosé’ theme because a few weeks ago I opened a bottle of the Mil Razas Rosé from Pagos de Nona. The last time I tasted the wine it was tired and pallid so my expectations were low. Yet, being the adventurous wine person, I popped a cork and, man-o-man! There is a wild savory sense here now … it’s oxidized a touch (hints of walnut) and the wine really expresses itself nicely in the glass. I don’t think that anyone picked this wine to age but here it is seemingly over-the-hill and tasting wonderful. So, maybe lose a couple of bottles of rosé for another year or three. You might be surprised at what happens.