There’s a certain crispness to the early-morning air and the sun is sets a little earlier each day. This is the Autumnal Equinox announcing the arrival of fall (Sept. 22nd, 2016 to be exact). It’s also the day that marks the moment when the sun’s position drifts over the equator into the Southern Hemisphere. This change is the official start of winter in the North and it tips the scale, making nights longer than days.
Winter is here.
This 2016, the Farmer’s Almanac has anticipated a cold winter for 2016/2017. What does this weather report mean for wine lovers? It’s an invitation to start seeking out spice-driven reds and whites that will pair perfectly with seasonal harvest foods. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite picks for fall, which are ideal pairings for warm oven-roasted foods and chilly weather.
Zinfandel’s smoky, spicy flavors make it perfect for fall. This wine is robust and works well with spiced squash and cassoulets (slow-cooked casseroles).
- Lodi is famous for a smoky style of Zinfandel.
- Sonoma produces minerally and elegant Zinfandel wines.
- Paso Robles Zinfandel offers an abundance of fruit.
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For those of us who are not quite ready to surrender summer, there is no better remedy than a glass of Grenache: it tastes like bottled sunshine. Grenache is practically bursting with sweet, red fruit flavors followed by the tingle of heart-warming alcohol. This one is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.
- Southern France (Côtes du Rhône and Languedoc-Roussillon) make rustic Grenache blends, so definitely seek out the 2015 vintage for great quality.
- Spain produces fruity and smooth Garnacha (as the Spanish say). There are exceptional old-vine Garnachas from Somontano, Campo de Borja, Carineña, Calatayud, and Navarra (Navarre).
- Italy makes a very rustic and tobacco-laced style of Grenache called Cannonau from Sardegna (Sardinia).
Beaujolais (Cru Level)
Beaujolais is a much more rustic red variety that often sports a touch of bitterness, complimented by low tannins as well as lovely floral notes of peony and violets. The high-quality stuff comes from one of the region’s 10 crus (aka “growths”), which can easily measure up to a good bottle of Burgundy. This is a great food wine that gets along well with just about anything you put on a plate (even roasted salmon).
- Lighter, more floral crus: Côte de Brouilly, Brouilly, Saint-Amour, and Juliénas
- Medium-bodied crus: Chiroubles, Fleurie, and Régnié-Durette
- Fuller-bodied, fruity crus: Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, and Chénas
Valpolicella (and Bardolino)
Corvina is the main grape of the two Northern Italian wine regions of Valpolicella and Bardolino. Corvina wines have tart, red cherry fruit flavors and sometimes a hint of chocolate. Corvina is also the ideal partner for pizza.
- Valpolicella Ripasso is a richer, more fruity style of Corvina blend. Find out how it’s made.
- Bardolino produces a more floral and herbaceous style of Corvina blend.
The parent grape of Cabernet Sauvignon is Cabernet Franc, which contains higher levels of an aroma compound called methoxypyrazine that produces roasted pepper aromas. It’s a fascinating wine to ponder, smell, and sip.
- French Cabernet Franc is rustic and herbaceous. The 2015 is a great vintage to seek out. Learn more about Loire Valley wines.
- American Cabernet Franc tends to deliver more red fruit flavors of raspberry and strawberry. Keep a look out for Cabernet Franc from Washington State.
A sweetly aromatic white grape variety that bursts forth with rose, lychee, and potpourri. It’s a soft and full-bodied wine and its sweet-smelling bouquet contrasts beautifully with its crisp, dry composition. A great wine to try with Chinese food.
- Be sure to pick up a recent vintage, because Gewürztraminer is one of those wines that (for the most part) is best drunk young.