Just like spring, fall is a season of transition. The temperature is cooling, leaves are changing, and humans and animals alike are stocking up for winter. We’re starting to crave heavier foods and wines to keep us warm on the cooler nights, but we’re not quite ready to settle in for hibernation. So what kind of wines work well in the transitional period?
While I will always encourage you to drink any wine your heart desires at any time you wish, a lot of people prefer a medium-bodied red or a full-bodied white. These wines often pair well with the slightly heavier tastes of fall, like sausage, cinnamon, pumpkin, and apple. They’re also a little different from the standard chardonnay/pinot noir/cabernet sauvignon options you might normally try.
Riesling is a naturally acidic grape that is often turned into a sweet wine, at least in the U.S. However, dry Rieslings are very popular in other parts of the world and offer a nice transitional option for the fall. It is a lighter bodied wine but the acid gives it a level of substance you don’t necessarily see in the sweeter versions or in other low-acid white wines. While the taste is fresh, bright, and fruity you don’t necessarily feel like you’re clinging to summer when you drink a dry Riesling.
Viognier is becoming more of a mainstream wine but still isn’t quite as popular as other white varieties. It is a full bodied wine with floral aromas, fruit flavors and lower acidity. Like Chardonnay, it can be either oaked or unoaked, with the oaked version being on the creamier side. Since it has stronger flavors and body, viognier can hold up to the heavier foods of autumn. The wine has a lot of character with the flavor varying depending on where it was produced, which makes it an interesting wine to drink.
Cabernet franc is a wine you can drink alone or with food and enjoy it tremendously either way. It often has a combination of fruit and pepper flavors with a medium body. It does need a decent time to air out to release the full range of flavors, but you will be richly rewarded for the wait. Cabernet franc is often blended with other grapes in Bordeaux, but it is excellent as a stand-alone. This is one of the grapes that really doesn’t get enough credit but can truly stand up to any other wine out there in terms of taste and drinkability.
Carmenere is a medium-bodied, medium-tannin wine with nice red fruit flavors. It is an old grape that has fallen out of common use but creates a nice, easy drinking, easy to pair wine. After it was driven out of France by phylloxera, it was planted in Chile, where it has flourished because of the long growing period. It’s so dark in color that grape growers originally thought it was Merlot when the grape was originally imported into Chile. Once they figured out that it was a different grape, they shifted their growing practices and improved the quality of the grape, helping it become more well-known.
Grenache, also known as garnacha, is a very old, widely planted grape but many people haven’t heard of it. This grape needs a long growing season and thrives in hot regions. It is often used in rose wines because it is thin skinned and light in color. Grenache tends to have fruity flavors with a nice hint of cinnamon, which helps give it some structure and depth. It can be blended or it can be made as a stand-alone wine.