Rosé (and Beets) All Day
How a beet dish rekindled my affection for pink wine.
Like most normal 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 even last year’s unfortunate rise of “clean” rosé.
Much of this rosé has been French, but plenty of it has also come from everywhere else: South America, Austria, New York’s Finger Lakes, you name it. The colors have also ranged widely: pale salmon to coral to flamingo to ballet slipper to neon pink. The taste? Most of it, honestly, has been…fine. Inoffensive. Refreshing. Unmemorable. 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 great deal of the world’s rosé. He told me how, every year, he had to review 500 local rosés, and about how he struggled to differentiate and describe the various rosés. “How many times can I write ‘strawberry’ or ‘floral’? It was — how do you say? — madness.”
There’s not a lot of great rosé, but there’s also not a lot of terrible rosé. I generally shell out about $13 and stick it in the fridge; at some point it is opened and guzzled, it is never thought about or spoken of again. Rosé has become almost completely disconnected from any sort of wine-and-food pairings. And yet.
Recently, I realized that a lot of my rosé consumption had been overtaken by orange wine — rosé’s cooler, hotter, more sophisticated, natural, low-fi cousin. After all, on the most basic level, orange wine is simply the blanc version of rosé, with skin contact of white rather than red grapes. In fact, I came to this realization the other day while drinking a cool skin contact wine from Costador in Catalunya called Metamorphika, made from very rare Sumoll Blanc grape variety, that comes in a ceramic bottle topped with wax. Metamorphika was fantastic and delicious, layers of citrus, herb, and minerals — a new orange crush. Complex, but not cheap: about $35.
The next day I still had a little sip of Metamorphika left as I was figuring out what to make with the spring beets that I’d bought at the farm market. 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 spring beets are different than winter beets: smaller, younger, sweeter, less earthy. Tiny beets like these you can even eat raw.
I decided to use them in a simple Mediterranean-style beet 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. This is in regular rotation at my house (our riff often substitutes pecans for walnuts and honey for pomegranate molasses) but it’s always best this time of year when we can get spring beets. It’s so simple: you just dump the beets, nuts, lemon juice and zest, honey, olive oil, garlic, salt, and one dried chile de arbol into the food processor and purée, then serve it with a schmear of labneh and pita chips.
As the food processor whirred, I realized that the chic Metamorphika in my glass wasn’t honestly a great pairing with the sweet and earthy beet dip. This dish needed something simpler, brighter, sunnier. Could this actually be an ideal food pairing moment for rosé?
I happened to have two very traditional rosés on hand, both from French regions known for rosé, and both new vintages. The first, La Bastide Blanche 2020 ($22) from Bandol, Provence’s most famous appellation, made from mourvèdre, cinsault, and grenache was to the floral and herbal side: “herbes de Provence,” flower stem, and watermelon rind, its color reminiscent of Rose Gold iPhone. It was an absolute delight with the beet dip. The second, though, was my rosé revelation: Les Lauzeraies from Tavel, 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 mid-summer plum) with great acidity and full-bodied. A boisterous, muscular rosé and we’re here for it. Oh yes, also, it was $13.
I did not think I would be singing the praises of a rosé wine — or beets — this week. But here we are.
Spring Beet Dip with Labneh
1 bunch of small spring beets
1 cup of pecans
1 lemon (for both juice and zest)
1 tablespoon honey
1 chile de árbol (or 1 teaspoon 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.