School’s back in session, the New Year has just begun, and there’s a tinge of anticipation in the crisp autumn breeze. It kind of makes you want someone to snuggle up next to. I know I’d rather have two strong arms wrapped around me than an itchy wool sweater.
After a summer of light and lively whites and rosés and the promiscuous promise of too much prosecco, autumn brings a different kind of desire. Something deeper, more profound. Complex if you will.
Think of fall flavors: pumpkin pie, Chai lattes, candied yams. There’s a warm and spicy sensuality to this season that sort of takes the edge off of the impending winter.
Cooler weather makes drinking red wine a pleasure again. Here are some hearty reds with a spicy soul, ideal for drinking and discovering in company.
Barolo Serralunga Giovanni Rosso (2006) is made with Nebbiolo, the Piedmont region’s signature big gun grape. It has deep red aromas of rose and cherries along with darker, mysterious notes of tar and even cola. Barolo has a tightness (read: acid, tannin) that takes time to unwind. Light the fire, prepare a meaty meal, and open up together.
Vin de Pays d’Oc Rouge Escapade Gibert (2009) is made from 100% Cinsault grapes from the Corbières segment of Languedoc-Roussillon in Southern France. This wine is all ripe red fruit with peppery and licorice notes. It’s warm on the palate and very long-lasting. Another take on Cinsault, this time blended with Grenache and Syrah, is Fou du Roi Le Temps des Cerises, also from Languedoc. This wine comes alive with intense fruit aromas, pepper, leather, and even an animalistic quality…
Viña Bosconia Reserva, Lopez de Heredia (2002) blends Spanish grape varietals Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo, and Graciano. The wine is aged for three years in American oak barrels, which denotes a bigger, woodier quality to this already bold, heady red. In addition to stewed red fruit, this intriguing bottle packs tropical notes of citrus, coconut, and dark spices. Imagine spiced rum without the rum or mulled wine. Try it with a rich and buttery aged Manchego and wear something red to pique your inner raging bull.
Wines from the Valpolicella sub-region of Veneto, Italy are some of most interesting you’ll ever encounter. Made from blends of local varieties, Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara, they vary in intensity depending on vintage and style. Bottles labeled “Superiore” are aged a year longer than the “Classico.” The oak aging bestows cedar and smoke qualities in addition to the sour cherry notes already present in the grapes. Amarone is the made from the same grapes, only they’re dried on roof-top racks before the fermentation process. Amarone wines have big, beautiful bouquets of dried fig, cloves, cinnamon, and black cherry. Save these for nights of long conversation, when words and glances take their time. Let each sip roll around in your mouth and explore. Together.
I would be remiss to ignore our very own American wines. Pinot Noirs from California’s Russian River Valley run the gamut from crystalline and crisp Burgundy styling to big, ripe, and spicy. Rochioli Estate Pinot Noir is a lovely compromise. Sierra Foothills producer Terre Rouge blends Rhône style reds with a focus on Syrah and other Rhône varietals. High altitude vineyards and a lot of sun breed complex and layered reds with an exotic edge. Pair them with lamb, dried fruit, flatbread, and Middle Eastern spices. After dinner, turn on some Tabla and make a little magic on your carpet.