Few wine styles evoke a sense of seasonality and place like rosé does. Vibrantly hued, with fresh aromas and mouthwatering flavors, rosé wines transport drinkers to summer-themed settings reminiscent of the French Riviera, full of blue skies, beaches and sunshine.
These images are largely a reality throughout the Mediterranean during the warmer months, but perhaps the most iconic spots for these pink dreams are in the south of France, in the regions of Languedoc, Provence and the Rhône.
These three regions are stunning. Blossoming flowers, plants and herbs dominate the landscape inland, and vast oceanfront establishments and glorious beaches line the coast. Winemakers there produce gorgeous rosés, each with distinct profiles and characteristics that mesh seamlessly with the overall ambiance and lifestyle of the Mediterranean.
These rosés range widely in hue, from pale copper to pink to almost red. The color depends on many factors, including the length of maceration and grape variety. In the south of France, many varieties are used for rosé production, including Grenache, Syrah and Mouvèdre, with some areas strictly regulated while others allow more experimentation and blending.
The wines are dry and possess some structure, as even though they receive limited skin contact, most have enough tannin and acid to support the fruit. The absence of perceptible sugar yields crisp wines, allowing the fruit to shine alongside other characteristics of spices, flowers and minerality.
Rosés are versatile when paired with food, bringing both refreshment and texture to the table. They are ideal for lunchtime, when a red might seem a little too heavy for open-air dining, but can also stand up to a wide array of dinner options.
The culinary team at Provence’s famed Restaurant Bruno believes that the secret behind pairing rosés with food is the balance between the texture, aroma, acidity and power of the products. Neither the dish nor the wine should overwhelm the other.
With such a variety of styles, rosés can complement or contrast a broad range of flavors, but when paired with their own regional fare, the partnership soars.
“With my cuisine, I bring the flavors that I want to reveal when the sommelier says the typical character of the wine he wants to emphasize,” says Patrick Juhel, chef of Le H in Narbonne. For Juhel, “the perfect pairing is the one that generates a nice balance of flavors in the mouth, without either the dish or the wine taking over.”
If a visit to the south of France is not in your immediate future, these recipes and wine pairings can help you recreate that famous joie de vivre at home.
Cannelloni with Vegetables and Black Truffle in Parmesan Cream Sauce
Recipe courtesy Clément Bruno, chef of Restaurant Bruno, Lorgues, Provence
8½ tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces pumpkin, cleaned and julienned
3 ounces leeks, cleaned and julienned
3 ounces zucchini, peeled and julienned
3 ounces porcini mushrooms, cleaned and julienned
1⁄3 cup chicken stock, plus extra for cooking
2½ cups heavy cream, divided
3½ cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
20 grams black truffle, grated
Freshly ground salt and black pepper, to taste
1 large ravioli pasta sheet, fresh, approximately pound
60 grams black truffle, sliced
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a simmer. In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the julienned vegetables and allow to sweat, approximately 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and ½ cup of cream and cook until the vegetables are tender, approximately 12 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a mixing bowl and blend with 2¼ cups grated Parmesan, then add the grated black truffle. Allow to cool.
Preheat an oven to 400°F. Heat the remaining 2 cups of heavy cream and 1 cup of grated Parmesan in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the rim starts to bubble. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until the mixture has reduced by half, about 30–45 minutes. Once reduced, season with salt and pepper to taste.
While the sauce reduces, blanch the pasta sheet in simmering water, then remove it and place on a clean dish towel to absorb excess water. When the pasta sheet is cool, remove the towel and cut the pasta sheet into 8 rectangles for the cannelloni. Place the vegetable mixture at one end of the rectangle and roll the pasta into a tube shape. Place rolled cannelloni in a buttered ovenproof dish, sprinkle with the remaining 1⁄4 cup of grated Parmesan and bake for about 15 minutes. Pay attention to the dish while its cooking; if the cannelloni start to dry out on the bottom, add a little chicken stock.
To serve, place 2 cannelloni on a plate, surround with the Parmesan cream sauce, top with the truffle slices and finish with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh-cracked black pepper. Serves 4.
The staff at Restaurant Bruno believes the Garrus Rosé from Château d’Esclans in Côtes de Provence is an ideal match for this complex dish. “The Garrus is a rosé with body; the wood imparts very good power and a lot of buttery notes,” notes Bruno’s sommelier, highlighting that the structure behind this rosé doesn’t have to compete with the flavors or textures in this flavorful dish, as “the softness of the cannelloni and also the crisp[ness] of the vegetable[s] pair very well, and the black truffle on top makes it even more unbelievable.”
Linguini with Shellfish
Recipe courtesy Patrick Juhel, chef of Château l’Hospitalet’s Le H, Narbonne, Languedoc
¼ cup all-purpose flour
32 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
32 small (less than 2-inches wide)
hard-shelled clams, scrubbed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
¾ cup minced shallots
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 cup Gérard Bertrand Gris Blanc or
other minerally rosé wine
Freshly ground salt and black pepper, to taste
¾ pound linguine
Chopped parsley, to taste
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Put the flour in a colander over a large bowl, and pour 3 quarts of fresh water over the flour. Put the mussels and clams in the bowl and leave the shellfish to release their sand for 1 hour.
In a casserole dish, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and add the shallots and garlic. Cook over low heat until translucent, then slowly add the wine. Add the drained shellfish, and pour in enough fresh water to fill the dish halfway. Cover and continue to cook for approximately 5 more minutes; the shellfish are cooked when the shells have opened. Once the majority of the shellfish have opened, discard any that remain closed.
Remove the shellfish from the cooking liquid and set aside. Reduce the liquid by half over high heat, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil. Add the linguine and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. While the pasta is cooking, open the shellfish and discard the half of the shell without meat.
Add the pasta to the reduced broth and stir. Add the shellfish and 1 tablespoon of butter to the pasta, mix and finish with a generous sprinkling of chopped parsley. Place a portion of the pasta into a deep dish or bowl, top with one-fourth of the shellfish and a generous spoonful of the broth. Drizzle a thin line of olive oil on top and serve immediately. Serves 4.
“The terroir of the Languedoc is unique in the world, as the grapes and terroir are varied,” says Juhel, “and so are the rosé wines produced in Languedoc: varied, diverse and can accompany different meals.” For this dish, Juhel likes to pair it with the wine he uses in the recipe. “The Gris Blanc from Gérard Bertrand is like crystal and is characterized by its freshness and minerality. These features make it a unique wine that matches, in particular, the iodine flavors of seafood and shellfish.”
Blue Lobster with Turnips, Honey Vinaigrette and Baby Vegetables
Recipe courtesy Jérôme Laurent, chef of Restaurant Le Cilantro, Arles, Rhône.
2 European blue lobsters, 11⁄2 pounds each (substitute American lobster if European is unavailable)
1 pound peeled turnips, divided
½ pound carrots, cut into -inch dice
½ pound zucchini, cut into -inch dice
4 ounces squash, cut into -inch dice
2 cups vegetable stock, divided
1 cup olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
3 ounces acacia honey
1 cup grape seed oil
Fresh ground salt and pepper, to taste
Roughly chopped cilantro, to taste, plus additional for garnish
Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil and cook the lobsters until done, about 15–20 minutes. Shell the lobsters after cooking, being careful not to shred the meat. Reserve meat from one claw and a 1-inch-thick slice of tail meat from each lobster, then cube the remaining lobster meat.
Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Cut 2⁄3 of the turnips into thin round slices, blanch them in the boiling water and then let cool. Cut the remaining turnips into ¼-inch dice. In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, cook the vegetables separately with ½ cup vegetable stock and ¼ cup olive oil each until just fork tender.
In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and honey. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the grape seed oil to form an emulsion. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooled diced vegetables with the cubed lobster meat and chopped cilantro to taste. Dress with the vinaigrette.
To serve, place a portion of the mixture in a 4-inch serving ring about ¾-inch high, then remove ring and cover with turnip slices in a circular, rose-like pattern. Using a spoon, pour the sauce from the mixing bowl around the preparation in a thin circle. Top with the reserved tail meat and garnish with cilantro and claw meat. Serves 4.
A Grenache-dominant blend with additions of Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Bourboulenc and Clairette, Domaine de la Mordorée’s La Dame Rousse Tavel is an ideal pairing. Its rounded, full body and long, spiced-fruit finish complement and contrast with the textures and flavors of the robust vegetables and lobster.
Guide To Southern French Rosés
In France, rosé outsells white wine, and with good reason: It’s fun, versatile and very Mediterranean. It pairs perfectly with the traditional regional flavors of seafood, olive oil and fresh vegetables. Approximately 10% of all the wine produced worldwide is rosé, and France accounts for more than one-quarter of the world’s production. Within France, Provence is the rosé leader.
Provençal rosés are made from red grape varieties traditionally grown in the region, including Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Tibouren, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes are first made into single-variety wines and are then blended to the winemaker’s preference of body, bouquet and color in a process called assemblage. The final blend, or cuvée, is typically made from one main grape and various secondary varieties.
Rosés from the Rhône are a bit more varied, depending on where in the valley they’re produced. Regional appellations like Côtes-du-Rhône and Côtes-du-Rhône Villages allow a wide range of varieties, but the rosés are mainly based on Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, with additional smaller amounts of several complementary varieties.
Cinsault gets a bit more attention in the rosés from Appellation d’Origin Protegées (AOP) Vacqueyras and Lirac. AOP Tavel produces rosé wines made primarily from Grenache and Cinsault, with other smaller allowances made for the addition of Bourboulenc, Calitor, Carignan, Clairette, Mourvèdre, Picpoul and Syrah.
The Languedoc is the most diverse of the three regions in terms of the sheer number of varieties planted and allowed in rosé production. Although there are AOPs like Faugéres and Minervois with restricted guidelines for production, many of which are the same as for the AOP’s red wine standards, the region still largely presents the opportunity to use either single varieties or blend multiple together.
The most commonly used varieties include Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvèdre, although there are many grapes that have been experimented with, including Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cot (or Malbec), Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Thankfully, many producers understand the complicated nature of the region, and have taken to labeling their rosés varietally, either with the primary grape on the front, if applicable, or with the blend information on the back.