Rosé d’Anjou and Cabernet d’Anjou with salads - The Nightmare Pairing!

Background to the wines

There are some fantastic rosés in Anjou ranging from the dry Rosé de Loire, off dry Rosé d'Anjou AOP and the richer Cabernet d'Anjou AOP. Many are made by the same producers who make sweet Coteaux du Layon, and their skill is in a fine balance of fruit and sugar with high acidity. These wines came to prominence in the 19th century when the railways and canals opened up an easy trade with the growing restaurant trade of Paris. A touch of residual sugar helped to boost the sometimes less than perfectly ripe grapes.

Fontaines

The region is on the cusp of maritime winds and rain and volcanic and schist soils to the west and the drier warmer continental climate with limestone and clay soils in the east, leading to a complex range of wine styles. Until recent years these wines were often a pale red clairet style rosé with more concentration and weight. The appellations were granted in 1957 and in 1959, Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger has James Bond going to the Hôtel de la Gare and drinking an iced pint of rosé d’Anjou with a large sole meunière! Rosé d’Anjou can be made with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Côt, Pineau d’Aunis, Gamay Noir, Grolleau Noir and Grolleau Gris. Both Grolleaux are quite pale so allow for greater extraction of fruit without fear of too much colour. The finished wine must have a minimum of 7g/l residual sugar and a minimum of 9% alcohol. Cabernet d’Anjou, made with either 100% or a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, must have 10g/l or more residual sugar (with no upper limit), with 10.5% alcohol. With global warming there is more and more Cabernet Sauvignon being planted. The amount of sugar in both wines will vary from vintage to vintage depending on the amount of acidity.

Lhumeau

Many see 'off-dry and pink' together and dismiss these wines as girly, low quality, cheap and not worth bothering with... But in fact they are great value for money and amazingly gastronomic, going well with so many dishes. Despite not being a fashionable style, we were sure that their balance of fruit, acidity and sugar would go well with one of gastronomy’s greatest wine and food challenges, and we came up with some ideas to match.

Liz

I decided to show that, contrary to popular opinion, these wines would age well and selected two Rosé d’Anjou 2017 and a Cabernet d’Anjou 2018. Sadly none of my three appear to be available in the UK, and as found, London and the South East of England are not good hunting ground for these wines.

For all three salads, I tried to match the creamy, fruity, acid character of the wines and to avoid a vinegar dressing - using only fresh lime juice.

Beetroot salad

Château Brissac 2017 Rosé d’Anjou AOP Made with two thirds Grolleau and one third Cabernet Franc with around 20g/l of sugar, 5 g/l acidity and just under 11.5% alcohol. This wine had sweet red fruit, its ripe richness countered by the acidity, a hint of minty freshness and a touch of tannin on the finish. When young it appeared more peachy and delicate - but with age the red fruit really comes to the fore and it proved to be an excellent match with the sweet, salty tang of my beetroot, orange and goat’s cheese salad.

Brissac

Domaine Hautes Ouches 2017 Rosé d’Anjou AOP, made with Grolleau Noir and Grolleau Gris also had around 20 g/l sugar, over 6 g/l acidity and 11% alcohol, had been full of soft red fruit and cherries when young. With a few years of age, it had taken on creamier notes with hints of nuts, oranges, apricots and long, fresh red currant acidity. The creamy peach character made it the best match with the peach and burrata salad (a combination I first discovered in a little restaurant in Liguria last year.) This wine was showing beautifully and I think would have continued to age well for at least another year or two.

La Vignerie 2018, Domaine des Fontaines, Cabernet d’Anjou AOP Made with 80% Cabernet Franc and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon had the extra intensity of growing on schist soils. With nearing 30g/l sugar, over 5.5 g/l acidity and 11% alcohol, this wine was truly in the demi-sec end of the spectrum. When young, it had tasted fresh, fruity and sweet but with age it seemed much drier, its intense red Cabernet fruit opening out and the wine appeared more off dry. This too went beautifully with the beetroot salad and I think would have gone well with a heartier tomato salad.

I had included watermelon in my tomato and feta salad because so many descriptions for rosé in the US use watermelon as a descriptor, and I was curious to see if this would work. Instead, the intense flavours of these three wines rather dominated this salad.

Watermelon salad

My conclusion: Allow your Rosé d’Anjou and Cabernet d’Anjou a bit of time to age and develop rich fruit character (although also lovely when young and fresh). Be bold with flavours. I had played cautious with some of my seasoning and I think I could have added more spice!

Sumi

I took up experimenting with spicy and pungent combinations from Asian influenced recipes so as to challenge the food and wine pairing levels of Anjou wines. My goal was to explore to what extent the freshness and crispness of the wine could take on bold authentic Asian flavours. I managed to access Rosé d’Anjou with relative ease from my neighbourhood grocery store Waitrose in Surrey. There seems to be a higher demand for the wine outside London zones and key metropolitan cities of the UK, where perhaps more mature and older consumers are familiar with the traditional styles of Anjou wines. London stores are not actively seeking out to stock them, although small quantities may be available from one-off retail wine chains. City based store managers find that the lack of demand is likely due to perception of residual sugar in these wines which may put off consumers, given the current trend of dry styles associated with rosé wines. When and if available, there isn’t a huge choice of producers either. As a result there is also a view that these wines cannot be paired easily with foods and are only good as aperitifs, which we are out to debunk.

The first salad that I prepared was a Kesar Mango and Horseradish Beetroot salad on a bed of lettuce served with a dressing of balsamic vinegar mixed with maple syrup, olive oil and black pepper to pair with Rosé d’Anjou. Kesar Mango is a seasonal produce grown in India during the summer months of April and July. These are harvested from the hills of Gujarat which house the Geographical Indication (GI) for the Kesar brand of mangoes. Picking time for these mangoes is important to retain the esters of ethyl butanoate (similar to strawberries) and terpenes that magnify as it ripens.

Mango, horseradish and beetroot salad

This salad amazingly paired well with the delicate red strawberry and raspberry notes of Champteloup Rosé d’Anjou 2019 (with a majority of Grolleau priced at £8.30 but with 25% off on summer discount). There is such an elegant balance of delicate red fruits and mouthwatering, fresh acidity, that the residual sugar of around 10g/l was barely noticeable. Being restrained in expression and relatively low on alcohol (11%), it could easily take on the combination of fiery flavours of horseradish beetroot along with intensely sweet and ripe ester notes of mango. Finally the balsamic vinegar dressing and lemon crispness of the wine acted as the perfect neutraliser to the sweetness of the mango and the pungency of beetroot. A fantastic experiment that proved that off to medium dry, crisp and fruity flavours of the Rosé d’Anjou wine can take up sweet spicy flavoured vegan salads (without cheese or dairy) and display an enhanced palate experience.

Champteloup rosé d'Anjou

Cabernet d’Anjou seemed more difficult to access, probably due to higher sugar levels and the fact that Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon based rosé wines have always been overshadowed by more fruity styled rose wines. I managed to source Château de Montgueret offline from Ocado (£12 at 25% off during summer sales) as no independents stocked it.

Cabernet d'Anjou from Chateau Montgueret

To pair with this wine, I made an Asian Coleslaw where I consciously challenged my palate by adding more spiced ingredients. The salad consisted of thinly chopped green apples, red cabbage, avocado, onions and carrots, and the dressing was an oriental peanut butter sauce with a few drops of ginger chilli sauce and soya sauce. Cabernet d’Anjou has more fruit weight and density, attributed to the schist soils where they are grown. And the savoury grip (leafy and green pepper herbaceousness) can take up rich and hearty vegetables. The creaminess of peanut butter with the mix of fleshy avocado and the fine texture of red cabbage is a rich mix of flavours and textures that can take on the more intense fruit and earthy flavours of Cabernet d’Anjou. The onion however may have doubled up the pungency to heightened levels and that was the only flavour that I suggest should be kept under check, while pairing with this mellow fruited wine. Overall, a well defined wine showing complex notes that can take up rich salads. The medium dry style of 15g of residual sugar was barely noticeable under the tanginess of soya sauce and hint of chilli ginger sauce and beautifully integrated with the ripe red strawberry and red currant notes.

Asian coleslaw and avocado

Anjou wines are very versatile and their base of high mouthwatering acidity coupled with the refreshing yet delicate fruit flavours elegantly integrate with the sugars in the wine. Infact, this combination is so unique that it highlights the complexity of Anjou to pair with a variety of sweet spiced and mildly pungent food flavours. Surely worthwhile being more adventurous when pairing with these wines. The wines are not just meant to be sipped during picnics under the sun - they can deliver way more than that!