The cooler weather is a time for wine drinkers to transition from crisp white and light red wines to richer possibilities. Drinking port in front of a fireplace on a humid August night is not a choice most people would make and the season for it is not quite upon us this month either. Until it is, there are many wines to bridge the gap between a crisp, refreshing pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc and an Amarone or Porto; wines likely to be served on a cool fall night or at a Thanksgiving celebration.
For the most part, I think we all want to drink according the climate but sometimes those massive 15 percent alcohol Napa cabernet sauvignons get the best of us, even on hot and humid nights. Sommeliers realize that the right wine for the right climate, cuisine and occasion means more wine is happily enjoyed. For a sommelier (and party host) that is the ultimate goal.
To explore more substantial white wines, either choose a grape that is more muscular (viognier, marsanne, grenache blanc, chenin blanc) or from a warmer climate region, such as Avellino in Italy, Rhône Valley in France or Rioja in Spain. All three of these regions are famed for red wines, but their white versions are well worth seeking out for examples of richer styled white wines.
If whites are not your bag there are also seasonally appropriate rosé and red wines. Rosé is a category of wine that has not been taken seriously in the American market until recently (some would say it still isn’t) but in Europe it gets respect and the styles produced cover all the bases. Light, sparkling, dark, sweet, dry, etc., are all found in almost every European wine region. A favorite of mine hails from the coast of the French Mediterranean in the Bandol region. Here they make beautiful rosé based on the complex and rich mourvèdre grape. This wine will also gain character and complexity with a bit of age, which is unique for rosé. For Italian lovers there are many options, including brachetto d’Acqui which is sparkling though substantial and versatile, along with some of the neighboring wine from Asti and Alba in Piedmont, that are produced from nebbiolo, barbera and dolcetto grapes.
For transitional reds, often the same regions as above produce appropriate wines. In Piedmont, a nebbiolo from Alba or Asti will be softer and more approachable than those from Barolo or Barbaresco and they’ll be more reasonably priced, too. Also worth seeking out are Barbera and Dolcetto from producers who make Barbaresco or Barolo. In the Rhône, a simple Côtes du Rhône Rouge will be the ticket, not too heavy but certainly not light.
Wines That Fit the Fall Season
2003 Gravonia Crianza, Lopez de Heredia, Rioja (White)
2011 Fiano di Avellino, Mastroberadino, Campania (White)
2012 Pineto Brachetto d’Acqui, Marenco, Piedmont (Sparkling Rosé)
2012 Bandol Rosé, Château Pibarnon, Provence (Rosé)
2009 Barbera d’Alba Superiore, G.D. Vajra, Piedmont (Red)
2011 Marsannay, Domaine Huguenot, Burgundy (Red)