As soon as the sun makes an appearance in London, the rosé corks seem to pop by themselves. Any city rooftop swarms with relaxed, smiling faces, aglow with rosy reflections from the pink nectar sloshing around in their wine glasses. Not just any pink, mind, a specific pink; a very pale pink, as if the black grape skins involved just shot the juice a flirty wink, in true sexy Saint-Tropez style. Ahh, Provence rosé gets us in all the mood, doesn’t it?
But, how about in the mood for food? Well, it should do. Many of us seem content to treat Provence rosé like an aperitif – something to wet our whistles, to get us going, before the food and the accompanying wine arrives. Sometimes there’s no food at all – just a friend, an ice bucket and probably another bottle in the chiller. But wait one hot second: we’re missing out – as I found out recently at a lovely dinner held by Vins de Provence.
Though the evening was all about eating and enjoying Provence rosé in all its gastronomic glory, you can’t welcome your guests without placing something thirst-quenching in their hands first (thumbs and forefingers gratefully gaping to receive, like the beaks of tiny baby birds) and a selection of tastebud ticklers did the trick: Le Grand Cros, L’Esprit de Provence; Ultimate Provence and Château d’Olliéres, Classique, Coteaux Varois en Provence. Le Grand Cros did it for me – so bright and aromatic! With tropical flavours of peaches and passionfruit, this rosé is a Saint Tropez bikini babe wearing a Carmen Miranda headpiece.
But let’s get to the food pairings. We were lucky enough to have Chef Milli Taylor prepare a string of delectable dishes for us, starting with fresh Cornish crab filo tarts with lime, chilli and coriander and also griddled courgettes, goat’s cheese and chilli on a Parmesan biscuit. These canapés were paired gorgeously with Provence rosés of the fruitier persuasion – Famille Quiot, Domaine Houchart Tradition; Château du Rouet, Estérelle and Love by Léoube. The fruit in the wines was a great partner for the chilli and also the notoriously difficult-to-pair goat’s cheese.
And actually, there are other fussy foods that seem to play ball with rosé – Parmesan, truffle and Asian flavours. The floral Provence rosés (Château du Seuil; Château de Saint Martin Eternelle Favorite; Ravoire & Fils Chantrose) made matches in heaven with Vietnamese rice paper rolls and (worth an eyebrow raise) seared rare beef fillet with truffled mascarpone and rocket croûtes. Those eyebrows can come back down and furrow together to make a serious ‘mmm-mmm’ expression for that delicate pink meat and Château du Seuil match.
As well as fruity and floral, Provence rosé also offers us herbs, salinity and spice. A classic Pissaladiére (a puff pastry tart topped with the mouthwatering combination of slow cooked onions, anchovies and olives) pirouetted with the Charmeur from Château Sainte Croix, which appears to accompany Provençal dishes beautifully, and Keralan fish curry allowed the Aix (Maison Saint Aix) to sing in spiced harmony. If you ever get to try Milli Taylor’s prawn toasts, then please pocket a couple for me – it was the most superb, prawniest toast I’d ever eaten and was even more sublime washed down with Les Marquets.
And, of course, rosé can do desserts effortlessly – and it doesn’t even have to be a sweet rosé to do the job well. Milli’s balsamic strawberries with mascarpone and basil would have been overpowered by anything luscious, but the Château L’Afrique, with its juicy freshness, brought the best out in the flavoursome strawberries – the pairing filled the nose with the heady scents of summer.
To finish, Milli served matcha cake with fresh cream and apricots – what a treat. Apricots and cream are surely compatible bedfellows with a peachy Provence, but green tea? Tricky. For some reason, it just worked – perhaps because of the backbone of herbaceousness or even the notes of zesty clementine from the Esprit Gassier. An absolute triumph – well done Milli! We ended things with a smooth glass of Quat’ Saisons from La Mascaronne, which made a lasting impression, much like the evening, with its lovely long finish.
Provence rosé not only has proved itself to be our summer companion, but also a fabulous food friend too. It’s fun, reliable and always looks gorgeous by your side – what more could you ask for in these warmer, brighter months of the year?
List of wines (all 2018 vintage), courtesy of Vins de Provence UK:
Le Grand Cros, L’Espirit de Provence
Château d’Olliéres, Classique
Famille Quiot, Domaine Houchart Tradition
Château du Roüet, Estérelle
Love by Léoube
Château du Seuil
Château de Saint Martin, Eternelle Favorite
Ravoire & Fils, Chantrose
Château Sainte Croix, Charmeur
Maison Saint Aix, AIX Rosé
Famille Sumeire, Château L’Afrique
Gassier en Provence, Esprit Gassier
Château La Mascaronne, Quat’ Saisons