Column: For summer wine, think rosé and Beaujolais

A 'Not Bread Alone' column.

Rosé has taken over the summer wine season. And why not? It’s refreshing, delicious and its vibrant flavors come in a range of pretty colors.  
 
Pink wines make me think of the warm and sunny vineyards of the south of France. Originating in the Mediterranean climate — known for a relaxed lifestyle and delicious food — it's no mystery why rosé and summer are a great fit.  
 
Wine regions around the world have jumped on the rosé bandwagon, but most still come from France, Italy and Spain. Made from red-wine grapes, the juice from a gentle first pressing is given limited time to soak on the skins, yielding pale color and lighter flavors. One Italian brand is named 11 Minutes for the brief amount of time the juice has contact.  
 
The popularity of easy-drinking rosé is fueled by uncomplicated, enjoyable and modestly-priced wines, but there’s a seemingly infinite and confusing number of bottles to choose from. 
 
I went to Stew Leonard’s Wines in Norwalk for some guidance from advisor JoAnn LoGiurato.

“The Provence style is popular,” she said. “Crisp and light with watermelon and strawberry flavors, it's just a step up from white wine.  Other styles have a fuller body and more complex flavors — lighter versions of red wines.”

Grenâche and syrah are the most popular grapes for French rosé. Prices range from $10 to $40, but the sweet spot seems to be in the mid-teens up to $20 or so. 
 
There have been summers where we’ve had a handy box of rosé in the fridge, ready to dispense a glass whenever needed. La Vieille Ferme ($24), made by the Perrin family in the south of France, is a fine example of a simple yet satisfying wine. LoGiurato also recommended VRAC ($25) rosé from France that comes in a bag.

“People keep coming back,” she said.  “The wine is delicious.”

Both hold the equivalent of four bottles, for a per bottle cost of about $8.
 
Want to feel like you’re cruising the Mediterranean on a private yacht full of bold-face names? Try a celebrity rosé. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have paired up with the Perrin family (yes, the same folks who make Vieille Ferme) to make Miraval ($22), a well-regarded rosé with a south-of-France pedigree. Avaline Rosé ($18), also from France is an organic, vegan non-GMO collaboration of actor Cameron Diaz and fashionista Katherine Power.  
 
For a summer red instead, look to Beaujolais for easy warm-weather drinking. Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages are great everyday wines. They’re crisp, tart, and juicy — loaded with fruit. Chilling them is OK — not icy cold, just enough to bead the glass on a humid day. At a DB Fine Wines tasting in New Canaan, Jim Winston described typical Beaujolais flavors: strawberry (fresh and earthy, like pick--your-own), bolstered by black pepper and clove with a lovely violet color. Moving up to the 10 named villages that make Cru Beaujolais, the flavors darken and become more layered. These are easy wines, but not simple. 
 
Of course, I came away from the tasting with a few bottles. Domaine de Bel-air, Beaujolais Villages ($17) was tart and berry-fresh, just like the legendary carafe Beaujolais that used to be a staple of Parisian Bistros. Jim served it chilled. Domaine Bel-Air, Morgon ($21) from the Cru village of Morgon was richer with the classic violet color, hints of clove and earth, along with the signature strawberry flavors and an aroma that made Winston exclaim, “Oh gosh!”
 
Winston also pulled out a surprise wine, Beaujolais Blanc ($23) a white wine from Chauvet Frères. I’m always on the hunt for good white Burgundy (Burgundy includes Beaujolais) below $30. The pale chardonnay “punched way above its weight” with complex stone fruit, a full body and lingering finish. I had to have some.
 
Back at Stew’s, LoGiurato recommended two of her rosé picks: Ananto ($10) made in Spain with organic Bobal grapes and Terre Nere from the slopes of Mt. Etna in Sicily ($22). For her, they represent the range of style, source, and price possible in rosé.

I can’t wait to kick back and pull the corks. 

Frank Whitman writes a weekly food column called "Not Bread Alone." He can be reached at NotBreadAloneFW@gmail.com.