The Roman poets Ovid and Virgil extolled its virtues as an aphrodisiac two millennia ago, but this brash green known as rucola in Italy and rocket among non-U.S. English speakers is a relative newcomer to American palates.
Although arugula was brought to America by early European immigrants, it wasn’t until the 1990s that it gained culinary popularity. Added judiciously among lettuces in salad, it lends so much peppery personality that salad dressing is hardly needed, but it is revelatory when cooked. Try it stir-fried as you would spinach or chard, or even tucked into grilled cheese or a tuna melt. Choose a wine that won’t compete but will instead play with whatever side of arugula’s character you prefer.
The hallmark of arugula is a peppery spice, much like watercress. Carmenère is a grape that originated in Bordeaux but found its spiritual home in Chile, where it makes wines with notes of peppercorn and green chilies. It’s a fun, bold pairing that proves red wine can go with salad.