Dry rosé wines haven’t always been taken seriously at the table, but they can be so much more than an aperitif and their versatility gives you all sorts of options.
Rosé wine and sunshine go hand-in-hand, and many styles are tailor-made for the sort of aperitif that can allow you to sit back and watching the world go by on an early summer evening.
But don’t be deceived by the casual image, because well-made examples of rosé can work with all sorts of dishes.
In normal times, you’d be able to spot café tables adorned by 25cl carafes of rosé wine being shared over lunch across southern France, from Provence and the Côte d’Azur in the south-east to Languedoc-Roussillon (now Occitanie) further west.
Recent years have also seen greater focus by winemakers, sommeliers and critics alike on so-called gastronomic rosé wines, created to offer greater complexity.
What puts rosé wine into the gastronomic league is that ‘it can be one of the best partners for a wide range of food,’ wrote food and wine expert Fiona Beckett, in an article on matching rosé wines with food in the August 2017 issue of Decanter magazine.
Think about the style
A key thing to consider when pairing rosé wines with food is that the wines can be made from all sorts of grape varieties, in different climates and in a range of styles – from varying maceration times to oak contact.
This means that you have a lot of choice, so try to think about the character of the grape varieties that have been used, and the intensity, structure and acidity level of the wine – as you would in most food pairing situations.
The Mourvèdre variety, which is commonly prominent in Bandol in Provence, tends to naturally lend more structure, but this Grenache-based Provence rosé from Mirabeau puts the focus on ‘stone fruit and crunchy citrus flavours’, while this Zinfandel rosé from Hiyu farm in Washington State in the US has been aged for six months in old oak and combines ‘firm tannic structure with sappy wild berry fruit’, wrote Decanter’s Tina Gellie.
Writing on Italian rosato wines recently, Richard Baudains said, ‘Styles range from the light, dry and delicately aromatic, to soft, round and fruity, through to full-bodied and even lightly tannic. Generally speaking, the further south you go, the more serious the wines become.’
Lastly, remember that colour is not always a marker of quality, or flavour profile.
General advice on pairing
Fiona Beckett’s advice was that, as a very general rule, lighter styles of rosé will tend to pair better with more delicate food, such fresh salads or charcuterie.
Chef Michel Roux Jr told Decanter.com in 2016 that he enjoyed a Sancerre rosé made from Pinot Noir with his summer tartelettes, including Feta, spinach, cherry tomatoes and mint with a quinoa crust. The balance of floral aromas, freshness and acidity worked well alongside the dish, he said.
However, fuller-bodied rosé wines, perhaps with riper fruit and more structure, are more likely to stand up to barbecued meats or foods with a bit of spice, said Beckett, who is the author of matchingfoodandwine.com.
‘Rosés from the New World tend to be riper and sweeter than their European counterparts; and this is not necessarily an off-putting quality when they are paired with spicy food,’ she said.
Some rosé wines can bring a bit of spice to the fore, too; this may depend upon the grape variety used or the amount of time spent in oak.
Loire wine expert Jim Budd noted the spicy texture of this Domaine de Reuilly ‘vin gris’ – a form of very pale rosé – made from Pinot Gris, for instance, while Pedro Ballesteros Torres found a ‘peppery expression’ on this Marques de Murrieta Primer rosé.
Rosés with greater complexity can also pair well with meatier dishes at the dinner table.
As previously suggested by Decanter contributor Michael Edwards, how about duck or venison served pink with a vintage rosé Champagne?
In 2017, Beckett he praised the savoury notes and complexity of the barrel fermented, 2013-vintage rosé from Bordeaux’s Château Brown, made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and recommended serving it with a rack of lamb.
‘The final message, as with other wines, is that you will be amply rewarded in terms of character and complexity by paying a little more for your rosé,’ said Beckett.