As the season for pumpkin spice advances, here's a list of must-have wines, officially perfect for autumn!
By: Anand Virmani, Wine & Marketing Consultant, Perch
Posted on: August 25, 2015
Wine is a fantastic beverage! This we know.
As a beverage, all wine can be had anytime, anyplace, anyway and with or without anyone. This we sometimes forget.
While you might argue that a full-bodied Bordeaux from the right bank may not be the most ideal of wines for a picnic lunch on the sand dunes outside of Dubai in the middle of June; one might suggest that nothing short of a frozen pinot grigio ice-lolly would do in such a situation. Realistically speaking, most wine is consumed in somewhat comfortable and neutral environs, and for those, just about any wine in the world will do.
If, however, the editor of a noteworthy e-magazine puts a proverbial gun to your head and asks you to pick out wines, which must only be consumed in autumn and not a second before or after, then one can possibly start to make sense of pairing one’s fermented grape juice with the colour of the turning leaves.
Autumn (or fall) is a time when depending on what part of the world you are in, you are either watching the receding monsoon rains from a window, or jumping into a heap of red and yellow leaves collected neatly in a garden. Either way, evenings comes along quicker, days become cooler, and warm, earthy spices are just what you need.
At these times, the wines I tend to crave more often than not (in no particular order) are these beauts –
1. Franciacorta DOCG is a sparkler unlike what one might expect from the land of the infamous Prosecco. It is, in fact, closer to being a Champagne with a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and is produced in the traditional method on lees. The reserve wines possess a special subtlety lent to them through 60 months of ageing on lees, of which an excellent example is the Bellavista Riserva Extra Brut Vittorio Moretti 2006 - an intensely fruity wine held beautifully together with a biscuit platform and a touch of olive on the nose.
2. While the Macabeo grape’s claim to fame is being one of three grapes used for the production of Cava, it is definitely not shy of showing up as a stag to this party. The Spanish grape produces a surprisingly crisp white wine with subtle herbs and spice – just the thing one needs when carving a funny face onto a pumpkin! Keep an eye out for the Tomas Cusiné Finca Racons 2012.
3. What do David Beckham and Chardonnay have in common? They’re both Europeans who’ve put California on the map in their respective arenas. They’re also both talked about way too much and are a bit, well, overdone. Having said that, no team would be silly enough to let go of Beckham (L.A. Galaxy take note), so we shall happily find a spot for a full-bodied, oaked Californian Chardonnay in our autumn list. With the complexity of stone fruit, minerality, brown spice and creamy lemon custard coming together with a full body and balanced structure, the 2013 Clos du Bois Calcaire Chardonnay Russian River Valley is a sure-fire Beckham.
4. Spice is an important ingredient to look for in a wine for this season and the Gewurztraminer, which literally translates to “Spice Traminer”, fits right in. With notes of lychee, rose and sweet spice, this wine is most likely to sign Buttercup (Powerpuff girls anyone?) as its brand ambassador. In the debate of German versus French Gewurztraminers, I would probably pick out one from the French region of Alsace, given that it’s likelier to have a bigger body. The Hugel Jubilee 2009 is an excellent bet for my money (preferably yours).
5. Australia’s Shiraz suffered a lot over the past 10 years as it tended to focus on quantity, not quality. This has taken a big U-turn though and some of the cooler Australian regions are dishing up fantastic Shiraz – peppery and medium to full bodied. The 2011 Credaro or 2010 Wise Margaret River Shiraz wines are both worthy of a spot in your picnic basket.
6. Autumn is the time for hearty meals and there’s a very special wine made specifically for these occasions - Barbera d’asti. This beaut has the richness you need for those cool October nights and yet the acidity to keep it fresh and liven up a healthy plate of Agnolotti piemontesi, a local meat and herb filled ravioli. The sour cherry and savoury notes that any self respecting Barbera d’asti should display also make it just about perfect for a spot of rain-watching from the window sill. While even a cask wine from any corner shop in this region should treat you well, if you happen to travel out of piemonte for some unfathomable reason, do pack a bottle of the 2006 Bricco dell’ Uccellone – thank me later.
7. Just as Syrah/Shiraz is a grape well at home in this season, so is the Tempranillo. This grape most commonly found in Spain produces some fantastic wines, which somehow balance ripe fruits like cherry and plum with a savoury tomato character and hints of vanilla and tobacco to boot. Put these two grapes together and you’ve got an autumn wonderland! This is exactly what wineries across the world are experimenting with and coming up with some tasty results. The Technicolor Bat from the Wilamette Valley is an excellent example, but if you really want to curl up with one in bed then Grover Zampa’s Chene from India is quite an exotic surprise.
8. Autumn is the time when sweet treats are justifiable (hence Halloween?). If this hypothesis is in fact true as I suspect it is, then autumn cannot be complete without a sweet wine. While Sauternes, Tokaji, Ice Wine and the likes are usually the first to come to mind, I will stick my neck out and say that autumn was truly meant for Passito di Pantelleria DOC. This cousin of the Recioto styles found in northern Italy uses sun-dried Zibibbo grapes on the Italian island of Pantelleria. The resulting wine is a full-bodied dream with a velvety texture, and sometimes displays the nuttiness of sherry. One such extremely memorable wine would be the Cimillya of D’Ancona Vini. Legend has it, these were the wines that goddess Venus would share with Bacchus alongside Pantelleria’s lake – who can argue with that?
A jolly good fellow with a drink or two always on his side, Anand Virmani is currently the Wine & Marketing Consultant at Perch, a quirky and elegant wine and coffee bar in India. Prior to this, he was the Marketing Manager, India Sub Continent for Remy Cointreau. After learning the ropes as the Brand Manager at William Grant & Sons India, Anand imbibed the art and intricacies of the alcohol world by completing Masters of Science in Wine Business from Burgundy School of Business. A WSET Level 3 certification further armed him for the world of hangovers. He has also served as a Consulting Journalist for Harper's Wine & Spirits Online UK. Follow him on Twitter at @AnandVirmani