For someone like me, who mourns the end of summer with a solemnity normally reserved for the passing of a loved one, the only remedy is to find something to embrace about autumn. Foliage and a new fall wardrobe both require a particular brand of luxury, be it access to long stretches of free time spent outdoors or a long line of credit
But flavors, they belong to all of us.
When the world’s gone all pumpkin spice and sage brown butter, we find ourselves an ideal palate to pair with sumptuous and complex wines. The season’s piquant offerings will also lend you a hand in detecting the nuances of baking spices, dried fruit, and opulent floral aromas in some fascinating wines.
Look for these not only on menus, but also at your local wine shop. They are wonderful with food but interesting enough and ideally balanced enough to enjoy on their own, in the right company.
This aromatic Argentinian white grape variety is genetically linked to the Muscat family. It is particularly susceptible to terroir, the place where it is grown. In its boldest incarnation, Torrontés dislays notes of ripe stone fruits like peach and apricot and a big floral bouquet of creamy pink rose. It can also pick up a dusty earthy quality and a lot of minerality on the finish.
Try: Anko Torrontes 2014
This is a particularly terroir-driven Torrontés from Cafayaté, Salta, an extremely high altitude area, 5,700 feet above sea level in the northwest of Argentina. The vineyards are surrounded by desert and the wine has an almost salty-savory quality on the palate. The nose is pure apricot nectar though. It’s a beautiful conundrum and a pleasure to drink.
Another aromatic white, Kerner is hybrid of Riesling and Schiava Grossa (Trollinger)that was created in the late 1920s in Germany. It is named for a poet, Justinus Kerner, a physician and prolific writer who also penned wine poetry. It grows predominately in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Alto-Adige Trentino, Italy. Kerner is most distinctive for its complex bouquet of fruit ranging from apple and grapefruit to tropical yellow fruits like mango and pineapple. It is generally dry with a balanced acidity, softer than Riesling but still fresh.
Try: Kellerei CalternKerner ‘Carned ‘ DOC 2014
The vineyards in this area of Alto-Adige Italy grow on the slopes surrounding lake Caldaro high in the Dolomite Mountain range. Hot sunny days and a warming lake effect accentuate the fruit flavors of wines grown here. In this case the Kerner is extra pulpy and full on the palate with a succulent finish.
Valpolicella refers to a growing region in Veneto in the Northeast of Italy. Like so much of the country, the land has been blanketed in vineyards since pre-Roman times. This particular appellation takes its name from a Latin root, meaning valley of many cellars. The primary red grapes in the blend are Corvina and Rondinella, both of which produce somewhat spicy and earthy red wines with a subtle green note reminiscent of Cabernet Franc. Valpolicella is also known for Amarone wine, which is made from semi-dried grapes. These wines, as you can imagine, are extremely dense, complex, and owing to the huge sugar content, high in alcohol. They are also rare and very costly considering the process.
Ripasso is a perfect compromise. Ripasso comes from the Italian “Ripassare” to pass-over again or revise. In this case the traditional Valpolicella blend destined for dry red wine is finishes fermenting on the must (skins) of the dried grapes used for Amarone. The finished product is a silkier, richer more complex wine, or if you rather, a pared-down, more approachable miniature Amarone. In fact, these wines are sometimes referred to as “Baby Amarone,” and they are a great way to get acquainted with this unique style of winemaking.
Try: Stefano Accordini Ripasso DOC 2012
A beautiful boutique family operation, Accordini produces a dark and mysterious Ripasso that blooms for hours in the glass. Look for notes of leather and chocolate, black pepper, and cigar tobacco all the while a fresh green element persists, which makes it a perfect companion to hearty meal.
This appellation comes from the Celtic for ‘burnt earth,’ which is a reference to its characteristic reddish soils or the fact of its South-facing position on a sun-soaked hill in the Northern Rhône. The wines are primarily Syrah-based and offer
an optimal expression of the Syrah grape as it ripens here in a particularly robust fashion and with age displays a full spectrum of flavors, including some say, savory bacon notes (great news if you happen to be Kosher, yet curious).
Try: Thierry Allemand “Reynard” Cornas 2010*
Inky ruby red, this wine is deep and soulful with notes ranging from ripe dark berries, cherry, violet and black pepper. It’s also got a gamey quality to it and some grippy tannins.
*Vintages are suggested, but ask your wine shop for the next best year if you are unable to locate it.