Rosé-and-food pairing is often oversimplified, whether labelling any rosé aged in oak as ‘gastronomic’, drawing attention to the wine’s colour and therefore its suitability when paired with pink food, or merely focusing on the drink’s summery credentials. Eric Zwiebel MS, director of wine at the Lake District’s Michelin-starred The Samling, confirms that rosé wine consumption is still clearly aligned with the sunshine, but Sylvain Nicolas, sommelier at Restaurant Guy Savoy in Paris, notes that more structured rosé is extending the season due to its ability to match with autumn game.
So, where to begin this winter? For many, gastronomic rosés do indeed involve oak. In leading examples, this can swing from heavily oaked flavours to an almost invisible presence, contributing hidden weight and structure to the wine – especially when met with a slightly more oxidative style of winemaking. Often its presence can lead to a softer, rounder fruit profile, removing the fresh fruity crunchiness common in unoaked styles. Romanian sommelier Julia Scavo, based in Provence, frequently matches rosé with food; she notes that the ‘texture, phenolics and depth’ from oak create a more powerful and complex wine, often with savoury overtones.
Oak can also contribute a bitter salinity or a gentle sweetness to the wine. For the tasting menu at the 1890 Savoy restaurant, executive chef James Turner and Emanuel Pesqueira, wine director of the Gordon Ramsay Group, match Château d’Esclans’s Garrus with turbot Véronique, mirroring the saltiness and sweetness of the wine with caviar and grape jelly and finding that the wine has enough power to carry these bold flavours.
Fruitiness is another character that can be used to good advantage, but again it can be tricky to define. Styles range from fresh and fruity, through to more concentrated and complex, with a touch of tannin and greater weight, and to off-dry rosés, such as those from Anjou. Zwiebel serves a pink Muscat Bugey Cerdon méthode ancestrale wine from Renardat-Fâche with a strawberries-and-cream dessert on his restaurant’s tasting menu. At a special lunch showcasing all five vintages of Clos du Temple, Sylvain Nicolas paired the 2021 with a strawberry dish that held delicate notes of liquorice, playing on the wine’s Viognier-driven floral notes.
Full-bodied, more structural rosés – such as the more traditional Bandols, Tavels, rosés de Ricey, Bordeaux clairets, northern Spanish claretes and Italy’s Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo – are often overlooked, but they can have a weight and structure (and often colour) akin to a lighter red and are therefore able to stand up to heartier foods.
Rosés with some age can take on a varied range of secondary and tertiary flavours, including nuts, dried fruits and more concentrated fruit and floral notes
Aged rosé is a newer category that’s growing in popularity. For these wines, Scavo looks for dishes with a level of savouriness that is ‘close to umami’. Moreover, any savouriness is enhanced when married with a lees-aged wine: seafood and Asian flavours can be the best match for this style of rosé. Meanwhile, slightly oxidative notes bring a mellow sweetness that goes well with the sweeter flavours of lamb, dried fruits, pumpkin and parsnip.
Rosés with some age can take on a varied range of secondary and tertiary flavours, including nuts, dried fruits and more concentrated fruit and floral notes. Pesqueira has worked on a project with Luis Pato in Bairrada to age a range of wines underwater in the sea, including an oaked rosé that finds itself matched with a complex tomato dish back on land at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.
Sommeliers play an important role in introducing us to innovative food-and-rosé pairings. Some imagination may be required, but with so many styles of rosé being made and its premiumisation continuing apace, it seems we’re only just discovering the drink’s gastronomic potential.