Festive Fall To Winter Wines

By Barbara Hay ~

A crisp breeze, leaves changing colors and winter knocking at the door…fall has arrived! As we’re updating our wardrobes from summer to fall, we might as well update our wine cabinets with something with a nice smooth oakiness that pairs well with an extra layer of clothing.

Put away the Pinot Grigio and try something new! The best part of this time of year? There are plenty of opportunities to celebrate with a bottle of wine, like the only warm sunny day of the week.

How about a Rhône white blend? France’s Rhône Valley is best known for inky Syrahs and vibrant reds, but Rhône whites are a hidden gem. They combine citrus and ripe golden apple flavors with hints of almond, and a creaminess that is both rich yet refreshing. Lighter in body than most oaked Chardonnays and heavier than Pinot Grigio, these wines are a perfect match for fall into winter menus.

A perennial favorite is M. Chapoutier – Côtes du Rhône Belleruche Blanc. A blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, Clairette and Bourboulenc, this is a  juicy and forward wine sports a bright golden yellow hue that’s often become a Chardonnay lovers seasonal favorite. The nose is intense and expressive with floral scented aromas, apricot and fennel. The complex and elegant palate features prominent notes of pineapple and orange underscored by hints of bitter pith, lime and subtle notes of aniseed on the finish. A fresh rounded medium to full-bodied white, it is a perfect match for many fall meals.

If you’re a Sauvignon blanc lover like myself, consider Semillon. Heavier than Sauvignon Blanc, this full-bodied white Bordeaux-borne grape is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc to create a lush, mouth-filling wine with a welcome hint of zippiness. It is an excellent white pour for those dark green fall veggies. Find one with some age or oak on it and be prepared for notes of honey, almond, and an unctuous texture. I prefer those from the Pessac-Léognan Bordeaux, but Australia is known for some very fine Semillon as well. I recently enjoyed Château Latour-Martillac 2016 Lagrave-Martillac (a Pessac-Léognan blend of 47% Semillon and 53% Sauvignon Blanc). Rated at 90 points, this white’s style is crisp and citrusy with a strong herbal character, perfumed acidity and zingy zestiness, perfect for crisp fall days.

When it comes to fall reds, Grenache is one of the friendliest fall-friendly wines. It’s hard to go wrong with Grenache. Grenache’s character can vary from region to region. In some Spanish, Australian, U.S.A. versions you will find raspberry and clove, while the French and Italian versions often feature dried strawberry and herbal notes. 

For rich flavor at a great price, try Evodia Calatayud Garnacha from Spain. ‘Evodia‘ means fragrant in the ancient Greek language and this wine is indeed fragrant with intense black cherry, currant, and raspberry overlay mineral, cedar, and baking spice notes. This wine is a fruit bomb. The palate offers loads of blueberry and black currant fruit, underlying crushed rock notes, unnoticeable tannins and a long, lingering, dry, earthy, and satisfying finish.  It’s very easy to drink. Super tasty and impressive. Plus, it’s a fantastic value.

Then again, there are the Rhône/GSM Blends. These wines offer something a bit more robust to pair with a foggy, chilly night. Classic GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre) blends are plush and opulent, offering additional flavors of lavender, baking spice, and even some green herbs. Besides all of those berry and clove notes, you’ll note a little more tannin and acidity. Regions that are known for great GSM blends include: Côtes du Rhône; Priorat; Central Coast-California; Australia and Columbia Valley.

For very good and very French red blend, try the M. Chapoutier La Ciboise Costiéres de Nîmes Rouge. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan and Cinsault, this wine is intended to be enjoyed with friends and family to celebrate everyday life. It is a bright, deep dark garnet red with an intense nose of ripe raspberry and black currant fruit which reappear along with soft spices on the palate followed by soft, delicate tannins. Delicious and full-bodied, it’s always a good choice.

For something distinctly special and American, Intrinsic Red Wine Blend from Columbia Valley, Washington is an excellent choice. It is a refined blend of 52% Cabernet Franc, 44% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Merlot that opens with notes of raspberry, white tea leaves, a hint of fresh mint and lavender. On the palate, the flavors are layered with milk chocolate, fig, dark plum and licorice root. The texture is angular, yet sophisticated, with chocolate ganache details in the finish. Perfect pairing with beef sliders, pork, or anything beef and/or pork in a smoke chipotlé sauce. It’s no wonder this wine scores above 90 points.

Of course, there are other great wine choices for fall, but space doesn’t permit. Think about giving these a try. Until next time, Cheers!

As always if you have any wine questions, I’m always happy to talk wine!