There are many versatile “food wines” out there—wines are more flexible and forgiving than people think, and are willing to accommodate to whatever food happens to be on the table, given reasonable limits.
On the other hand, many wines have certain affinities with certain foods or dishes and combine with spectacular synergistic effect, exponentially increasing the enjoyment of both.
But there are a few—a very few—wines that are not only generous in their versatility, but accomplish the role of companion with such eager virtuosity that they make most foods shine.
When you find those wines, cherish them.
Don’t be surprised if your cherished list includes an inordinate number of rosés. Roses are, by their very nature, accommodating with foods across the taste spectrum, treading, as they do, between the characteristics of red and white. But, even then, roses are still often fairly workaday and not extraordinary in any way.
But one rosé that is extraordinary is a Provencal rosé from the AOC of Bandol, the result of a fortunate conspiracy between place, grape varieties, and years of long experience. Bandol rosés have such particular vigor and vivacity they stand out clearly among other rosés, and almost always perform brilliantly with foods to enhance the dining experience of even the most casual of meals.
Consider the Bandol Rosé Domaine du Gros’ Noré 2010, consumed recently at St. Jack, a charming French bistro concept restaurant in Portland, OR, on the first real warm day of summer there.
A curious and appealing magenta shade of purple/red tells you immediately this is not some light and frothy little amusement; the aroma and taste confirm this. There’s berry fruit and plum, floral perfume, musk and earth, all mixed together in the nose, and the taste follows seamlessly. There’s structure and intensity too; and a lovely streak of bracing minerality that adds a lean, taut, nervy line to the wine.
And here’s where a Bandol—and this Bandol—shines: put it up against the first dish, a bowl of piping hot and perfectly double-cooked pomme frites with a side of aioli, and it seems as though there couldn’t possibly be a better wine sitting beside the food.
Second dish up—a wooden board of charcuterie de maison, with greasy-rich, chewy, Alsace saucisse, pork rillettes, quince paste, Dijon mustard, pickled rhubarb, charred green onions and cornichons alongside a fresh baked baguette—and the wine conforms with rustic charm, not missing a beat, shifting easily to a spicier, fuller-bodied, more robust companion befitting the food.
Finally, with the brimming bowl of moules mariniere in a heady broth, the wine twists acrobatically to show off both the perfume to match the savoriness and the earthy tang to match the plump, fat mussels in herbed broth.
Three different dishes. Three entirely different taste and textural themes—fried, cured, and seethed in broth—and the wine matched all with aplomb. Not easy to do; but the Bandol has enough weight to be weighty when needed; enough fragrance to be aromatic when needed, and aromatic in the right way each time; and enough complexity of flavor to accommodate a surprisingly wide range of other flavors. It’s white when it needs to be; red when it wants to be. It’s Bandol Rosé—light when you need it that way, but full and rounded when you need it to be.
The Domaine du Gros Noré may seem a bit pricey for rosé, retailing in the $20s as it does, but one sip and you won’t quibble at the price; it’s really a low price, when you compare it to the most famous of the Bandol Rosés, the considerably more expensive Domaine Tempier.
Domaine du Gros’ Noré Bandol Rosé is imported by Kermit Lynch Wines, and should be widely available in quality wine purveyors.