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It's Memorial Day Weekend, So Here's My Post On Rosé
I don't make the rules. This is the official start of rosé season, and so I'll just fall in line.
I haven’t been looking at a calendar, but I wouldn’t need one to know that it’s Memorial Day weekend. All I need to do is follow wine media. That’s because this is traditionally the week of the annual reports on rosé wine. Don’t believe me? Just click here, here, here, or here to see a few examples. The best of the bunch is VinePair’s roundup from earlier this week—especially noteworthy because they were unafraid to recommend pricier, more complex rosés over $30, some even over $50.
In today’s newsletter, however, I’m going to be trawling at the opposite, bargain end of the rosé spectrum. (A more complex treatment of rosé is coming next week, from Alexandra McInnis).
I like rosé, but I I don’t get all that cranked up about it. Like most American wine drinkers, I have consumed an ocean of rosé over the past decade. I have lived through Brosé, Frosé, White Girl Rosé, overpriced rosé from Brangelina, the Hamptons rosé crisis of 2014, and the unfortunate rise of celebrities pitching “clean” rosé.
Much of the rosé I drink is French, but plenty of it comes from elsewhere: Austria, New York’s Finger Lakes, Spain, South Africa, you name it. The colors also range widely: pale salmon to coral to flamingo to ballet slipper to neon pink. The taste? Most of it, honestly, is…fine. Refreshing. Inoffensive. Of all the wines, rosé is the most consistently average beverage.
I once met a guy who was the wine critic for a newspaper in Provence, which supplies a massive share of the world’s rosé. This guy told me that, every year, he had to review more than 500 local rosés. He bemoaned the struggle to differentiate and describe the various rosés. “How many times can I write ‘strawberry’ or ‘floral’ or ‘watermelon’? It’s a descent into madness.”
The bright side of rosé is this: There may not a lot of great rosé, but there’s also not a lot of terrible rosé. I generally shell out about $12.99 to $15.99 and stick it in the fridge; at some point the rosé is opened and guzzled. It is usually never thought about or spoken of again.
Still, when I realized it was nearing the end of May, I knew I would feel compelled to cover rosé in some fashion. So, on various shopping trips, I grabbed a handful of budget bottles. A trio of recommendations and pairing advice follows.
Oppenauer Zweigelt Rosé 2022, $13 (liter)
You can always count on the Austrians for good-value wines in a liter. This zingy zweigelt rosé is fun and friendly and doesn’t ask too much of you. It brings big flavor and aromas: pretty flowers, strawberries, blood oranges. This is going to be your beach wine this summer.
Tavel is a historic appellation of the Rhône that must be rosé (from cinsault, grenache, mourvèdre, and syrah). Les Lauzeraies is a fiery sunset pink and super fruity (raspberry, strawberry, juicy plum) with great acidity and full-bodied. A boisterous, muscular rosé and we’re here for it.
I had to include one from Provence, right? This veers more to the floral and herbal side of rosé (I am required to wine writer law to invoke herbes de Provence). Refreshing, dry, and lively, with watermelon rind and underripe strawberry on the palate. This punches well above its price.
So What Should You Pair With Rosé?
Rosé has become almost completely disconnected from any sort of wine-and-food pairings. And yet, I have a suggestion. Yes, beets. I am suggesting you pair your mandatory Memorial Day weekend rosé with beets. Why not? Half the fun of rosé is the color, one could say the same for beets. I’m also thinking of the tiny springtime beets now found at the farm market—smaller, sweeter, less earthy, and you could even eat raw.
Now, okay: Beets are not exactly the sexiest of vegetables. Honestly, my immature mind probably leaps to the Portlandia 911 Beets Emergency skit when I think of beets. But I am suggesting turning those beets into one of the most seductive dips you will ever try. Follow the recipe below.
The Beet Dip
One of my favorite pre-dinner snacks is this sweet, spicy, earthy dip inspired by Botanica in LA and written about by Tejal Rao. It’s a loose adaptation of muhammara, the Middle Eastern roasted red-pepper dip, but it calls for beets instead.
This is in regular rotation at my house (this riff substitutes pecans for walnuts and honey for pomegranate molasses) and it’s always best at this time of year when you can get spring beets. It’s so simple: You just dump the raw beets, nuts, lemon juice and zest, honey, olive oil, garlic, salt, and dried chile de arbol into the food processor, purée, then serve it with a schmear of labneh and pita chips. You can adjust the spice level to your preference.
And yes, having this dip on a sunny afternoon with a bottle of rosé is an ideal pairing moment.
Beet Dip With Labneh
1 bunch of small beets
1 cup of pecans
1 lemon (for both juice and zest)
1 tablespoon honey
1-2 chile de árbol (or 1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes)
1 garlic clove (peeled and grated)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teapsoon kosher salt
1 cup labneh
Chives or other fresh herbs
Pitas or pita chips
Place beets, nuts, lemon juice and zest, honey, chile, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a food processor and purée on high. Be sure to scrapes down sides and blend until smooth.
Spread labneh in a serving dish or bowl and then spoon the beet dip on top. Sprinkle with chives, olive oil, chopped nuts, and a squeeze of lemon.