Have You Ever Had a 10 Year Old Rosé?

It’s that time of year in Cali where the last vestiges of Indian summer manifest itself sporadically.  I write this on one of those fleeting, but delightful 80 degrees day in mid-October for which California is famous.  On days such at this, I reminisce about a summer (one that was far too cool for my liking), and on this particular day, I’m thinking about a Rosé truly unlike any other I’ve ever experienced, the 2000 Lopez de Heredia (“LdH”) Rosado Gran ReservaViña Tondonia.

LdH, one of the oldest family owned oldest wineries in La Rioja, Spain, has a reputation for outrageously long aging of their wines, in the barrel and in the bottle.  Consider that the 2000 vintage is the current release of their Rosé, when the vast majority of Rosés are from the 2010 vintage.  The wine was aged 4 years in old American oak barrels produced from their own cooperage, then aged another 6 years in the bottle!  That is simply unheard of for a Rosé.  The source of grapes for this wine is Viña Tondonia, planted between 1913-1914.  And as befits a wine designated Gran Reserva, it’s not made every year.  The most recent preceding vintages were ’93, ’95, ’97, and ’98.

The result?  An exquisitely unique, interesting, aged Rosé with great complexity.  So much so that when I purchased it (along with a few other Rosés), I was actually “warned” that it was not a typical Rosé.  I understand why.  It’s a bit of a cult wine, familiar mostly to wine geeks, wine “experts”, sommeliers, and aficionados of slow food movement (including Alice Waters, V.P. of Slow Food Int’l, and proprietor of Chez Panisse where an LdH Rosé has been on the wine list for 40 years).  It’s not for everybody, because rather than youthful primary fruit, this wine has a wondrous multitude of secondary and tertiary aromas and flavors.

2000 Lopez de Heredia Gran Reserva Rosado Rioja - photo courtesy of R. Lopez de Heredia website

The wine is made from 60% Grenache, 20% Tempranillo, and 20% Viura.  According to Maria Jose de Heredia, the Viura gives the wine freshness, while the Tempranillo gives the capability of aging.  What I love about this wine is that is built for spicy hot foods such as Patatas Con Chorizo Riojano, Indian, and Chinese dishes.  And unlike many other fine Rosés I’ve enjoyed, this one can handle full-bodied foods as well.

While not for everyone, I highly recommend you try it at least once. If you do decide to give it a try, it’s a Rosé that should never be drunk too cold.  My own experience bears this out.  As the wine got warmer, I picked up more aromas and flavors and it seemed to improve its affinity for pairing with foods.  So take it out of the fridge, let it sit for 15-20 minutes, before embarking on a Rosé journey unlike any other!  And remember, Rosé it’s not just for summertime.  They’re such great food wines.  Drink ’em all year round!

My tasting notes follow:

Coppery onion skin color with great aromatics including slightly oxidative aromas of butterscotch, almond, and spice.  On the palate, medium-bodied, silky smooth, fresh, complex and balanced. Very dry with tart red berry, blood orange, and touch of vanillin flavors.  Long finish.  This is definitely a food wine.  We enjoyed with spicy hot Indo/Paki cuisine and it was a great pairing! – 91 pts