Even though the weather has been cooling and the leaves have been changing for a few weeks now, we're not truly in fall until the calendar arrives at October. Halloween candy starts showing up on the shelves, weekends are filled with football, and pumpkin flavored everything starts getting released - seriously is there nothing people won't flavor with pumpkin?! It seems as if a beverage has to be gourd flavored in order for it to be fall-suitable.
But while there aren't any pumpkin flavored wines - at least none that we know of, and we'd like to keep it that way - there are lots of wines that go perfectly with fall, the weather and the season's flavors. In selecting wines for fall, you want wines that are a great transition between what we were drinking in the summer - light, crisp and refreshing - and what we'll drink in the winter - dark, smooth and warming.
Because it can be so difficult to find a specific bottle of wine depending on where you live, we're going to instead recommend the regions and grape varieties you should be looking for. The rest of the discovery is up to you, which we think is half the fun. Here are the styles of wine you should be drinking as the leaves turn golden and you're getting ready for the next kickoff.
You know the smell of fallen leaves, that spicy sweet aroma that takes over your senses as you hike through the forest or jump into a freshly raked pile? That's Syrah in a glass. Syrah's spicy, warming aromas go perfectly with the cool weather and fall fare hitting the tables, while its nice acidity still reminds us of the light reds we were drinking in the summer. We particularly love Syrahs made in the style of the French Rhone this time of year. This Old World style is more likely to have the earthy flavors and aromas that make the wine so perfect for fall.
If you can't find 100% Syrah from the Rhone Valley (you'll want to look for wines labeled as from the Northern Rhone) grab a Côtes du Rhône blend instead. These wines will usually be labeled Côtes du Rhône and come from the Southern side of the valley. The wine is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mouvedre (fun fact: the blend is also known around the world as GSM). It's a great second option.
True Beaujolais is, sadly, too often an afterthought as a great fall wine, thanks in no small part to the marketing crush that is Beaujolais Nouveau, an immature version of the beverage that is basically freshly fermented grape juice. But don't let your hatred of Beaujolais Nouveau turn you off from the pleasures of real Beaujolais. Beajolais, or more specifically the grape the wine is made from, Gamay, is a perfect wine for fall. It's light, with great funky red fruit flavors of berries, and a great amount of acidity. Few reds pair as well as it does with roast chickens and turkeys while also holding up to burgers and even seafood. So ignore the November marketing campaigns for Beaujolais Nouveau and ask for the real stuff instead.
White wines aren't just for spring and summer, especially if we're talking Chardonnay. While oaked Chardonnay can still be a bit too heavy for this time of year - its smooth vanilla notes making us yearn to curl up by the fire - an unoaked variety loses a lot of that weight, while still retaining the rich and smooth flavors that cause it to be so perfect with the season. Open a bottle after a day of picking apples or carving pumpkins -- there's nothing better.
If you're unfamiliar with Roussanne that's OK, just trust us, it's perfect for fall. This straw-colored wine has notes of pears and honey - great fall flavors - with a nice amount of acidity so the wine isn't cloying. It can be tough to find a 100% Roussane, though it's being used more and more in California, so look for it in the white blends of the Northern Rhone, where it is typically blended with Marsanne. Try a bottle with a great fall dish, like a Tagine. The exotic rich spices go wonderfully with the wine.
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