A sommelier friend of mine told me recently that the owner of his restaurant came up to him in late October and rather snarkily said, “Don’t you think it’s about time to take the rosé off the tasting-menu wine pairings?” While nodding in ascent, the sommelier later told me he was thinking, “No, it’s the best possible wine pairing for that dish.” Of course, the wine came off the list.
There’s a conventional wisdom in the wine world that wine is as seasonal as the food we eat it with. Rosé and light whites are for summer. Light reds are good for springtime and summer, except for Beaujolais Nouveau—which comes out in November and is always a wine-writer favorite to recommend for Thanksgiving. In winter, with all those hearty braises, roasts, and red meats, come the big boys: the massive Cabs, Shirazes, and Malbecs.
The truth is, no one drinks like this anymore. Sure, you go through some rosé and light whites on bright summer afternoons. But you can just as easily enjoy those wines at a January lunch. Air conditioning and heating mean that we rarely have to eat meals in the swelter of August or the dark chill of mid-February anymore. So here are a couple of “out of season” wines to keep drinking now, no matter the weather.
Aveleda Vinho Verde—From Portugal, this “green” wine does sort of taste green—a bit like draining the sap from a flower stem—and so it’s universally associated with summer. But because it is so bright, fresh, and tart, there is no better wine to pair with a salad. It also fares well when put toe-to-toe with garlic in a truly aggressive Caesar or a very garlicky pasta. Vinho Verde is not something you want to hold onto more than a year and a half past the vintage date. But chill it down and pop it open to go with a first course of winter greens dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. And it’s usually around $5 a bottle. Can’t beat that.
Contini Rosato—From the great wine-producing island of Sicily comes a singular rosé from a grape called Nieddera, which in the hot sun and harsh winds of Sardinia produces a wine of unique body and texture. It may look like a summer wine—and it certainly is—but because it’s a little hard-edged with unusual power and intensity, the Contini doesn’t just roll over for food. Rather it’s a great counterpoint for Mediterranean dishes with the plucky flavors of olives, capers, and garlic. I love it with a great roasted fish stew with a few croutons—the kind of soup that just makes a good November supper.