Rosemary and wine go together kind of like thunder and lightning; interrelated and complementary, so often creating powerful and explosive unions. From the “garrigue” influence on wines themselves through rosemary’s common and natural proximity to many great vineyards, down to the incredible pungent fragrance rosemary adds to some of the world’s greatest culinary exploits, there may be no fresh herb more closely and intrinsically connected to wine. Before we can get into the best wines to serve with rosemary laden dishes, we’ll take a look at the other ingredients rosemary it most at home with, and then finally explore some novel and creative ways you can use rosemary – things you might not have seen or thought about before.
Rosemary is an incredibly versatile and strongly flavoured herb that can enhance a wide variety of dishes and ingredients – and can be used as a component in everything from seasonings to marinades, soups, salads and more. With this said, I wanted to introduce some of the ingredients I think work best with rosemary, both in their ability to stand up to this pungent flavour addition, and often times offering flavours and textures of their own which bring a certain counterbalance to the final dish.
I adore rosemary when used in rubs with red meat – ribeye of beef and just about any cut of lamb, to be precise. Combine some roughly chopped rosemary with a bit of olive oil, salt and cracked black pepper and get your hands dirty giving your steak or leg of lamb a thorough massage before it goes on the grill and the results are extraordinary. I find that when exposed to direct heat, rosemary begins to char and takes on a nutty bitter flavour that adds unbelievable depth of flavour to steaks and red meat.
Potatoes are another fantastic vehicle for getting more rosemary into your diet – whether roasted in the oven with some oil and rosemary, or even the addition of some fresh rosemary to mashed potatoes just before serving, the rich mouth-coating texture of the potato seems to offer the perfect complement to the pungent aromatics of rosemary. Finally, lemon and garlic are a couple of ingredients that pretty much always play nicely with rosemary, and when looking to combine other fresh herbs with rosemary, I find thyme to be a reliable partner.
The best wine matches with any herb or spice end up having a lot to do with other ingredients in a dish, but there are a few thoughts that I try to keep top of mind when pairing wine with rosemary. Wine regions around the Mediterranean are well-known for the “garrigue”, or indigenous plants like rosemary, lavender and thyme, which grow in close proximity to vineyards. Beyond the romance of seeing these plants growing wild near vineyards, there is an herbal aroma reminiscent of rosemary in many of these wines – both white and red. Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre/Monastrell based reds and whites made from Grenache Blanc, Viognier and Bourboulenc from wine regions like the Rhone, Languedoc and Roussillon in France, or Priorat, Montsant, Alicante and Yecla in Spain all tend to produce wines that showcase this phenomenon.
Given my love of this pine-y aromatic shrub, I am constantly on the outlook for new ways to get more rosemary onto my dining table. For example, rather than using bamboo skewers when making kabobs you can add some style, aromatic wow factor and flavour to this preparation by using the rosemary branches instead. Another great way to make fresh rosemary last through the winter is through infused vinegars which make lovely additions to salad dressings and sauces, contributing both acidity and lovely aromatic complexity. Finally, the next time you are assembling a cheese plate or charcuterie board, consider laying a smoldering branch of dried rosemary on your board just before you serve it. Both the site and smell of the rosemary smoke slowly rising from your selection of meats or cheese indulges the senses and is cool yet rustic way to enhance the overall presentation.
[ Recipes ]
Halibut Poached in Rosemary-Infused Olive Oil: RECIPE
Wine Match: Chardonnay from Cote d’Or or Chablis (Cru)
Flatbread w/ Blue Cheese, Grapes & Rosemary Honey: RECIPE
Wine Match: Sparkling wine like Prosecco or Cava
Roast of Pork w/ Rosemary & Sonoma Plum Compote: RECIPE
Wine Match: Barrel-Aged Chardonnay from California or Australia
Rosemary Pesto Crusted Rack of Lamb: RECIPE
Wine Match: Chateauneuf-du-Pape or Cotes-du-Rhone reds
Bistecca Alla Fiorentina (Florentine Steak): RECIPE
Wine Match: Sangiovese from Tuscany or California