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Get Spicy: Fall Wines To Spark Your Appetite

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I’ve always been a believer in seasonal pairing, be it a pumpkin pie baking in the oven when the air gets crisp, a gamey Syrah with your roast turkey, and someone to hold hands with under the covers just in time for the holidays. 

Fall might just be the most expressive time to pair and drink wine. The air is filled with aromas of damp earth and dried leaves, the first crackle of hearth smoke tints the breeze, and without the summer humidity clogging up the atmosphere, the warmth of baking smells is as evident as it is welcome. 

In addition, it’s harvest season. The new wines are being produced as we speak, and many of the current vintages are being released after several months of oak aging and maturation.

It is a time of beginning and ending—as one process comes to fruition, a new one commences. Fall is a great time to let go of old insecurities (and old, dysfunctional relationships) and make space in your mind and heart for the new.

Fall wines come in all colors, and some of my favorites are actually white. Tocai Friulano, or more simply (and now legally by European appellation standards) “Friulano” might just be the quintessential fall wine. It is produced from the Friulano Grape, grown mostly in the region of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. It produced a rich wine with nutty notes, and subtle hints of baking spices. It is as ubiquitous by the glass at Venice bars as Beaujolais is in Paris. The slightly golden tint has a way of calling to mind sunset on the canals, and that last sliver of light that keeps you warm before the chill of the evening. It’s an invitation to stand a little closer and squeeze a little tighter. A huddle in a glass. It also  accompanies baked fish, and complex seafood-based pasta recipes.

While I’m rarely a proponent of oak in my Chardonnat I have recently enjoyed both a Chardonnay and a blend of Chardonnay and Grechetto with just enough oak to call to mind the pleasant, balanced sweetness of caramelization on everything from onions to crème brûlée.  The former, called BLANC, is produced by Mazzolino in the Oltrepo Pavese region of Lombardia, Italy by a Burgundy native, and aims for Chablis styling with Italian personality. The result is a crisp and beautiful Chardonnay that opens as it heats up in the glass, offering warmth and generous aromas.  The second is an Umbria IGT, as it breaks decidedly from the region’s established DOCs.  Antinori Cervaro della Sala undergoes extended time on the lies in oak barriques which bestows a delicate cream quality and smoothness to balance the bitter almond aftertaste. These are both wines that evolve with time and exude coziness and comfort.

As for red, I love Syrah-based blends from southwest France, which often include Mourvédre, and Cinsault for a bold gamier quality. These pair like silk to stockings with roasted duck, lamb and Turkey.  California producer Terre Rouge is also turning out great Syrahs and Syrah blends.  Look for a rustic quality and a dark pepper tinge.

You’ll also find pepper, along with black olives and rosemary in Italian indigenous varieties like Cannonau, Monica, and Negroamaro. The latter often carries with it the smoky scent of nearby brush fire, so sunbaked is the earth in Puglia, its native territory. These reds go first to your arms and legs, and later your head…take advantage of it and give in to weakness and temptation. Maybe you’ll find someone big and strong to lean on.

Annie Shapero is the Founder/CEO of DiVino wine events planning and wine consulting, currently operating in New York City.
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