Got down into the 20s last night — a chilly reminder that fall is here. We will be gifted by more crisp, cool air and leaves barely clinging to the trees, doing their color-turning dance. Say hello to another amazing change of seasons in the mountains.
We are changing, also. Even if science did not confirm this — and by the way, it does — our circadian cycle changes in preparation for not just autumn, but also the inevitable cold mountain winter. We naturally move into new patterns of sleep, activity and nourishment. Diets skew from cold salads and charcuteries to warm soups and roasted meats and vegetables. As for wine, doesn’t a slightly richer Chardonnay or California-style Pinot Noir sound better than cold-crisp Sauvignon Blanc or chilled Beaujolais right about now?
For all you red rockers, fall is a time to rejoice as moderate days and chilly nights are where the textures and flavors of most red wines are more in their element.
If that registers with you, then let me give you some can’t-miss selections that also overdeliver in the quality-price-ratio department. And while we are at it, let us also branch out from just Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. We will focus on regions that reliably produce the desired style of wine from the grape or grapes involved.
On the white side we may as well start with the classic Chardonnay; while there is no shortage of drinkable Chardonnay at value price points, it is a challenge to find wines of distinction here, especially in the value range. A good rule of thumb is to look for wines labelled as unoaked. This not only means no barrel time, but also usually precludes the use of oak alternatives, which typically lets purer Chardonnay character come through. Spain is another wellspring for fall whites, specifically the regions of Rioja, Rueda and Rias Biaxas. Also, pretty much any white from Alsace, Italy or Oregon will fit the bill as wines from these regions typically display the body and spice that a good autumn wine needs.
In Rosés, look to France’s Languedoc-Roussillon region, Spanish Garnacha-based blushes and California’s Central Coast and Sierra Foothills, especially their dry versions.
For all you red rockers, fall is a time to rejoice as moderate days and chilly nights are where the textures and flavors of most red wines are more in their element. Please remember that even in cooler weather, reds shine best when served at old-schoolroom temperature, meaning 60 to 67 degrees depending on the weight and style of the wine.
We don’t want to poo-poo Pinots; they really are a magical match for autumn. California, New Zealand and Chilé are go-to regions for medium-plus bodied and flavorful Pinot Noirs. Dolcettos from Piemonte, Italy; Mencias from Bierzo, Spain; France’s Loire Valley Gamays and Cabernet Francs and Bonardas from Argentina are also excellent fall choices.