A small crop of American winemakers is brightening up fortified wines with summer-friendly pink bottlings. In doing so, these producers are putting their own twists on ancient traditions.
Made by adding grape brandy to a still rosé during the fermentation process, these offerings typically fall somewhere between 17–20% alcohol by volume (abv). They shine when they’re served with cheeses as an aperitif or alongside dessert, and like their lower-proof rosé cousins, they are best enjoyed chilled.
These three bottlings are a great introduction to this blossoming style.
Björnson Ratafia Rosé
The idea for this wine started in 2016, with the rare Oregon vintage that yielded a secondary crop. Winemakers Pattie and Mark Björnson used the bonus Pinot Noir grapes to make a pink-hued ratafia, a fortified wine commonly made in Champagne with extra grape juice from harvest. The fortified rosé, which Mark describes as a “pinkish, amber Port,” was a hit, and the winery has made small batches of the bright and berry-flavored dessert wine ever since.
Brent Manor Vineyards Vinho Abafado Rosé
Originally from Portugal, Winemaker Jorge Raposo is naturally drawn to Port-style wines. After opening his Virginia winery in 2015, he set out to make his own American version of fortified rosé with Chambourcin grapes, modeled, of course, after his home country’s famed fortified wine.
“Rosé Ports are all about fresh fruit,” he says. “This is a summer Port, one you’ll actually want to drink on a hot day in August.”
Broc Cellars Mockvin du Broc Rosé
Inspired by the wines of Jura, with a nod to California’s rich history of making Angelica, a sweet fortified wine, Chris Brockaway set out to make a unique wine from Valdiguié grapes. The rosé, fortified with local brandy, sat untouched in the barrel for five years. Despite that aging, the wine is refreshing.
“It’s a lighter concept of what’s considered to be a heavy wine,” says Brockaway, who believes “it’s nice to drink something that gets your mind working.”