Of all the wines, I’d say I enjoy rosé the least. That bold statement, however, has come under fire recently. When sampling a delightful strawberries and cream explosion in Budapest, I realised that the Hungarians make rosé in a decidedly different way to France- and a decidedly more appealing way for my particular palate. Before that, however, I’d encountered another rosé that had caught my attention. Skipping through the sprawling Dorset countryside, I was introduced to Sea Pink, the only rosé made by English wine producer, Furleigh Estate.
I’ve already championed this vegan-friendly winery already, but perhaps that shows how impressed I was with the visit. I couldn’t leave without taking a bottle home, to try in the comfort of my own home.
This time, it was with an altogether more interesting food pairing. Begone, palate-cleansing dry crackers, and hello, homemade fig, walnut, and blue cheese tart.
Neither my partner nor his family are vegan, but they’ve jumped on the bandwagon to cook for me at every opportunity. I’m extremely thankful that I can take it for granted that I’ll be greeted by something delicious, creative, and made almost entirely from scratch whenever we visit.
Inspired by BBC GoodFood’s recipe, but reimagined with a little help from Violife soft cheese, Violife stilton, and Pure dairy-free spread, all of which are available from most supermarkets. This tart was well-received by the token vegan, and not over-looked by the non-vegans either.
As someone who never really took to mouldy cheeses, this was a surprise; the blue cheese wasn’t as strong as a conventional stilton. For true stilton fans, I’m sure there are closer mimicries on the vegan markets these days.
No egg substitutes? No stress. The original recipe called for eggs, but was made without a substitute with great success. For those who don’t like the taste or texture of nuts, grinding the walnuts into the pastry mix is a great way to add some extra goodness to a meal, with next to no additional effort. The perfect combination of crunchy toasted walnuts and creamy soft cheese, spiced with herbs and sweetened with slow-roasted shallots and poached figs, made an inviting companion for an off-dry rosé bursting with sweet strawberries and raspberries, balanced with with tangerine and slightly sour crabapple.
A popular food-pairing for off-dry rose wines is goat’s cheese, or half-baked white-rinded cheese like Brie and Camembert. Quiche and rosé are supposedly very good, which is why I decided to try this easy vegan-friendly tart and rosé pairing.
Sea Pink is an even split of Pinot Noir and Rondo grape varieties. Where Pinot Noir is pretty well known, Rondo – a German cross-breed grape- is less so; it’s an interesting one, because it’s one of very few grapes that has dark skin AND dark flesh. Even dark purple or black grapes usually have pale flesh inside. It’s popular in Germany and Northern Europe, where the climate is a little colder and grapes are better off ripening early, which explains why Furleigh Estate grow it for many of their wines.
Other vegan-friendly food pairings for off-dry rosé
Dry rosé, like those from Provence, match well with almost all cheeses because they marry the acidity of white wine to the fruit character of red. Dry, and off-dry (slightly sweeter) rosé will compliment “meaty’ fish like lobster, crab and prawns. To me, this screams vegan scallops made from pan-friend tofu, or meaty King Oyster mushrooms. I’ve yet to find these in Birmingham, though I did have the pleasure of trying tofu scallops at 1847, a tiny but unforgettable restaurant in the city centre. Everything is vegan or vegetarian, and more than half of the options are gluten-free to boot. Even better, they have a pretty respectable wine list!
[Editor Update: not only have I now found King Oyster mushrooms, I’ve also made several vegan scallop recipes with them – they are amazing! Discover them here].
An off-dry, or slightly sweet rosé wine, can be complimented by strong, summery flavours; think olive tapenade, sundried tomato, stuffed roasted pepper, fennel, perhaps crackers with pumpkin seed butter. On the sweet side, peaches, figs, strawberries, made a little more interesting with savoury herbs or gentle spices. Often people will reach for charcuterie – ie. cold meats and cheeses – a pairing one could achieve with smoked tofu, or vegan cheeses brightened up with cranberries, apricots, curry spices, or paprika.
Craving something sweet? Try Rosé and chocolate truffles!!
And could there be an opportunity to experiment with rosé and avocado? I think so. Where a fully ripe avocado may prove the wrong texture, the wrong level of creaminess – the kind of which can compliment an unoaked Chardonnay or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc- what of a younger avocado, just tipping the edge of under-ripeness, still carrying some vegetal, earthy notes? Set a crimson glass down beside a leafy salad, furnished with pomegranate seeds and fruity balsamic, or strawberries and basil, and prepare to welcome the approaching summer with reinvigorated gusto.
A Guide to English Rosé Wines
After sampling a few rosé wines, I’ve learned that what I thought I didn’t like about rosé is only a singular style. Although many love it, I’m sure, French Provencal rosé is not the fruit, easy-drinking summer drink I seek when I fancy a glass. English rosés are often made of a large portion of Pinot Noir – one of my favourite grapes. Delicate, flavourful, and characterised by strawberries and herbs, it’s a grape with huge potential. Where this delicate, pink-hued style is concerned, I’ll be welcoming in the summer of ’19 with a little more of an open mind.
Any rosé lovers out there with food pairings to share?