Top up your glass with a seasonal wine this fall! Read on for a list of the best wines to try this autumn season.
Weather fluctuations and the availability of produce are reflected in what we serve at the dinner table. While it may seem like an obvious addition to include more soups, seasonal wine flavors are also welcome as the cooler weather sets in. A crisp glass of white wine is the perfect way to accompany a sunny day on a patio, but it hardly seems fitting when paired with a filling minestrone for dinner.
Red wines may be the classic choice as the temperature falls, but white wine and rosé are not off the table just because summer is over. There are many options to suit individual palates, food pairings, and budgets. Steering clear of purely thirst-quenching styles, and leaning towards more aromatic and complex flavors is a good place to start.
Travel around the wine world
A bottle of wine has the power to take you to a far off country, or remind you of the flavors close to home. Whether you live in an Old World country, basically Europe, or everywhere else in the New World, different locations mean a range of flavors.
Old World wines are usually more acidic and tend towards earthy flavors, great to pair with food. They also focus more on terroir, another commonly used wine term. Terroir refers to the characteristics such as climate and soil type that make a location unique. On the other hand, New World wines are generally fruitier and lower in acid, making them great wines to sip. They are often higher in alcohol, ideal for warming you up!
Choosing Seasonal Wines
We might already be naturally drawn to certain wines as the weather cools down. Personal preferences are normal, but why not take the time to choose wines with an autumnal flair. While this list of wines is by no means exhaustive, it touches on some classics, seasonal favorites, and some varieties to explore. Hopefully, it will introduce some new grapes, regions, and alternatives that can be a basis for future discoveries.
Red Wines for Fall
The G-S-M blend is an iconic blend of the Old World, originating from the Rhône Valley in the south of France. The combination is highly respected and is now used around the world. It is so popular that it is regularly referred to simply by the first letter of the three main grapes included: Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. These three grapes all vary in flavor, acidity, and body, making for a great balance.
Depending on its origin and the ratio of each grape, the resulting wine has flavors of dark berries, herbs, pepper, and spices. Oak, leather, and smokey flavors are also present in many styles. Pretty much all the warm flavors you want to soak your taste buds in as the weather cools down!
Leading the way is Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a G-S-M blend that can also include up to another dozen grapes. While these wines are highly prized and therefore expensive, there are many options in the nearby appellations to get an idea of the style. The wider region of Côtes-du-Rhône Villages shares many characteristics while offering great value.
Paso Robles, California
For a similar style in the New World, Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, California has been making wines based on Rhône varietals for decades. The winery is a joint effort with the Perrin family from the Rhône valley and an American importer. The vineyards were grown from vines brought by the Perrins and the location was chosen for its similarities with the Rhône. These wines show great depth and are bold and tannic enough to pair with roast meat dishes, perfect for autumn.
Nothing says fall and Thanksgiving time more than Beaujolais Nouveau, made from the Gamay grape. This wine is released every year on the third Thursday of November following harvest. Most wines take a little longer before they are bottled and sold but the Beaujolais Nouveau style comes from the quick way in which it is produced. These wines are light and fruity, with lots of cherry, strawberry, and red fruit flavors. They are a perfect accompaniment for a turkey dinner or to drink slightly cooled as an aperitif.
Beaujolais Nouveau has garnered plenty of fame for its celebratory arrival every November. To try the Gamay grape at its finest, it is worth discovering the Beaujolais Crus, ten villages in the north of the region. These wines can rival top Burgundy reds and can age just as long. However, they are also great to drink without any time in the cellar. While all ten produce high-quality wine, notable villages include Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, and Fleurie.
Loire Valley, France
Often neglected in favor of its famous offspring Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Cabernet Franc is a grape that is well worth trying solo. It is usually a part of classic Bordeaux blends, though rarely the main star. It grows especially well in the Loire Valley in France, where the cool Atlantic breezes produce high acid, spicy wines with notes of bell pepper.
The high acidity makes it great to pair with food, particularly with equally acidic dishes and fresh herbs. Many areas of the Loire Valley such as Chinon, focus on Cabernet Franc. They make interesting and easy to drink wines, perfect for an autumn evening.
Finger Lakes, New York
On the other side of the Atlantic, the Finger Lakes viticultural area in New York state is having great success with Cabernet Franc. It is a grape that thrives in cooler climates and is even used in the region’s ice wines. Its herbal high acid qualities are still present, along with juicy red fruit and currant notes. It is perfect for pairing with game and poultry.
The grape Nerello Mascalese might be unfamiliar to many, but the wine it is generally used for might ring a few bells. Etna Rosso, a namesake of Mount Etna, is made from old vineyards growing at the foot of the famous Italian volcano. Etna Rosso has a limited production, and Nerello Mascalese can only be found in very small quantities outside of Sicily.
The volcanic lava ash and soil, as well as the higher elevation, add an elegant structure to these delicious wines. The tannins are smooth and the flavors are intense, including blood orange, cherry, and dried spices. Etna Rosso is best paired with seasonal Mediterranean dishes.
Red Sparkling Wine
Perhaps you have a notion of Lambrusco as a cloying and overproduced cheap wine. Thankfully, production has greatly improved over the past decades and great Lambrusco can now easily be found. It is a red sparkling wine from the north of Italy, an area famous for its food.
This wine is vibrant, juicy, and robust enough to accompany a large range of dishes, from charcuterie to roasts. Flavors range depending on the producer and vineyards, with currants, berries, and sour cherry often present. Lambrusco should definitely be on your wine list this autumn!
White Wines for Fall
Loire Valley, France
An extremely versatile white grape that can be grown in many climates, Chenin Blanc is perfect for the fall season. Depending on its home, it can taste like a variety of stone fruits, jasmine, ginger, flowers, and chamomile. In its homeland, the Loire Valley in France, it can be made into dry, sweet, still, or sparkling wines. It is great for many occasions and can be served with pork, poultry, and other heartier dishes.
Across the equator, Chenin Blanc makes up a huge portion of South African vineyards. The style here reflects the warmer climate, and the wines are rich and balanced. High acidity keeps the wines fresh and easy for pairing with food. If your go-to is oaked Chardonnay, a Chenin Blanc wine from somewhere hot should be next on your list.
Often misunderstood and assumed to only produce sickeningly sweet wines, Riesling is a fantastic choice for fall. Wines can sometimes have a bit of residual sugar, but the high acid balances it out. Riesling is one of few wines that pairs well with spicy dishes, as well as white meat, and seafood. Riesling from its native Germany is certainly worth trying, however for fall check out those from Alsace, France. These wines have a creamier texture and mouthfeel, making them perfect to cozy up with.
Riesling has found its way to the New World and there are many great versions to try. Washington state has long focused on Riesling as one of their top white grapes. Apple, quince, pear, and mineral aromas are often present. This is one of the best white wines to pair with food.
Orange Wines for Fall
This list would be incomplete without including orange wine. What could say autumn more than an orange wine to match the changing leaves? Though the name can be misleading, these wines are made with white grapes, not oranges. Unlike usual white wine production, the skins of the grapes remain in contact with the juice for some time, giving the wine an orange hue ranging from barely noticeable to dark copper.
Although this style has gained popularity in the last years, it is actually an ancient technique used in Georgia and eastern Italy. Wines made this way usually have extra texture, body, and complexity from the grape skins. As well, more aromas are present due to the skins, making these wines perfect for heartier autumn flavors. Orange wine should definitely be on your table this fall!
While the usual guideline of drinking white wine at a colder temperature than red still applies, many of the white wines listed have a more aromatic profile. Drinking them ice cold like one might a Pinot Grigio will stop them from truly shining, muting the flavors instead. Likewise, if your heating is on high and you can walk around your house in a t-shirt, room temperature red wine might need a moment in the fridge.
Aromatic white wines are best served around 45-50ºF, or about 30-40 minutes in the fridge. Red wines should be served around 60-65ºF, about 10-15 minutes in the fridge. If you find your white wine lacking flavor, or the tannins of your red wine too harsh, warm the wine up by holding the glass between your palms.
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