Transitional Tasting

We love this time of year; friends and family settling back in for fall, gathering for one last gasp of summer. But transition can be tricky too – you know, days you’re shedding the sweater by midday, but ever so glad you have it come evening time. And—worse than what to wear, in our book – what to serve? Stay tuned for our tips and look like a pro.

This weekend, try a backwards day. While the weather is still warm but fading to cool, switch it up with light reds and robust whites. Here’s how we’re playing, with unexpected (and backwards) combos that make for all kinds of fun. We might even try reversing the order – chilled light reds first, saving the warm whites for later in the evening as temps cool down.

Now, let’s get this party started: why not pour a Lambrusco, sparkling wine from Emilia-Romagna in Italy? It’s shaking off its cheap, party-girl image in favor of a mature and elegant frizzante, an ever so gentle fizz, more understated than your brash Champagnes or sparkling wines. Lambrusco is full of ripe berry flavors (think strawberry, cherry) and low tannins make it soft and appealing.

Whites: Sometimes these more robust wines are described as white wine for red wine lovers. Full bodied, often with higher levels of alcohol which are closer to typical red wines. 

Chardonnay: Go for an oaked Chardonnay that has seen some malolactic fermentation. (In this second fermentation, malic acid is turned to lactic acid, making the wine creamier, rounder, and often notes of butter both in aroma and flavor on the palate. Think California.

Rhone white wines: You can often find affordable Rhone white blends that are full-bodied and fruity, perfect for the fall. Look for wines including Marsanne, Roussanne Grenache Blanc and/or Viognier, you may find them as stand-alone varietals as well. Here’s how to ID them on the palate: 

·      Marsanne: soft and full with loads of peaches. 

·      Viognier: more floral and distinctive but also heavy with apricots and peaches.

·      Roussanne: more structure than the previous wines and sometimes a note of herbal tea. 

·      Grenache Blanc: the most neutral of the bunch, green and rich in taste.

Furmint: If you’re looking for something further afield, give a Furmint from Hungary a try. Check the label and make sure it’s DRY, as these are the grapes used in making the world famous sweet dessert wines of Tokaji Aszu.

Verdejo:  Mainly from Rueda within Spain, Verdejo is often likened to Sauvignon Blanc but is really in a class of its own. Distinctive and aromatic with notes of citrus, pear, honey and sometimes roasted nuts. 

Reds: This is the perfect season for ethereal, light reds: they pair ideally with the flavors of fall (think end of grilling season right to Thanksgiving). And most of these become even more  delicious when put on ice for a few minutes for a bit of chill when the weather’s still hot.

Beaujolais (Gamay): Beaujolais is the classic wine of the southern Burgundy area by the same name. It is usually 100% Gamay, the perfect grape for fall. Oh so affordable at $10 for a national brand.  Why not spring for an amazing quality Cru Beaujolais from 10 of the best areas (like Brouilly, Morgon or Fleurie) for slightly more if you want to impress. Both great with a little chill. 

Zweigelt:  It is not everyone’s go-to but maybe it should be yours? This is one of Austria’s claims to fame, full of cherry, pepper, currants and meat (yes!). If Zweigelt is not available, try Blaufankisch, with its blackberry, cherry and spice notes. Both are relatively light in body and full in flavor.

Pinot Noir: Classic for a reason, Pinot Noir is light in body but can pack a punch. Pinot from Burgundy is likely to be expensive, lean with mineral and earthy notes. California Pinot will often be much darker, higher in alcohol, with much more fruit on the palette. Can’t decide? Go for Oregon Pinot, grown at virtually the same latitude as Burgundy but in cooler weather than California.

Corvina:  If you need something that really brings it home, try this aromatic grape of Italy, the base of both Valpolicella (typically more affordable) and Amarone (more expensive and more robust).  Often made with an age-old technique of drying some of the grapes prior to making the wine to concentrate flavors, these are true classics. The perfect end to a perfect fall evening. 

Now put on your sweater, sit back and sip. Cheers.