Summer has been exceptionally hot here in Paris and the city has become one big party in the street. It’s has long-been officially time to sit outside and drink cold, uncomplicated yet satisfying wines. Rosé seems to still the the tipple of choice out there in the cafes.
You might wonder, is rosé just for quaffing at a sidewalk bistro or can it pair well with food? I happen to think it can be a wonderful pair for many foods, especially those with gutsy flavors of the South of France, laden with garlic, tomatoes and herbes de provence.
Rosé often has a bad reputation of being a cheap, inexpensive and uninteresting. Or perhaps we associate it visually with the sickeningly sweet White Zinfandel wines that our mothers consumed in great quantity in the 80s.
However, more and more, we can find great examples of fabulous rosés that can be very charming as an apéritif or even to masterfully accompany gastronomic meals. Think of rosé like an intermediate style between and white and a red wine, which makes them naturally very food-friendly and fun to pair, especially during summer and al fresco dining.
Most rosé wines are meant to be uncomplicated crowd-pleasers. I know that when I open a bottle with friends, it’s not necessary to contemplate or to smell and savour for hours. It’s for thirst quenching and drinking chilled! And don’t look down on those that drop in an ice cube or two if the weather is very hot! It has been known to happen.
You can refer to my blog post here from a few months back to refresh your memory on the production methods. The color can often dictate what types of foods the rosé will best accompany. For example, a pale salmon hued rosé from Cotes de Provence can usually be treated like a white wine and best accompany fish, shellfish and white meats. These wines also offer incredible refreshment value with Provençal style foods rich in flavors like olives, garlic and oily fish like anchovies or grilled sardines.
Try small toasts with green or black olive tapenade, a delicious spread of olives, anchovies & capers. Or why not try your hand at making the French version of focaccia: fougasse, an easy to make flat yeast bread studded with olives, bits of bacon or chunks of savory goat cheese. You can even find them ready-made in Parisian markets and bakeries, sometimes dusted with the lovely herbes de Provence and wet with a drizzle of olive oil. Served along side a chilled glass of rosé, this makes for a perfect aperitif outside in the sun! Or why not the “pizza” of the South of France: a pissaladière?
With deeper colored wines that have seen more skin contact such as roses from the Loire Valley or Bordeaux, pair more robust foods such as grilled meats or slightly spicy foods.The rosés from these regions are also classic pairings for Asian take-out food (shrimp spring rolls, anyone?). These wines also have an affinity for North African dishes like couscous or long-cooked stews called tajines. The wine will accent both the savoury and slightly sweet element coming from the dried fruit often used in these dishes. Or crack open a bottle of this type of rosé with dishes like pizza and rustic pastas in red sauce.
Heading back to the South, try the fuller-bodied examples from Bandol or Tavel with the cheese course. I like to take soft style goat cheeses and drizzle them with a bit of good extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle a bit of dried herbes de Provence on top. Or pair them with the powerful and delicious regional goat cheese wrapped in a chestnut leaf called Banon.
In most cases, rosés in France are dry wines, so don’t see pink and think sweet. These are not dessert style wines so do not be tempted to pair them with a raspberry tart or anything sweet.
And remember that wine and food pairing is highly subjective and all about enjoying your company without overcomplicating matters. I can’t think of a better wine to enjoy with friends than a chilled bottle of rosé ! Cheers!