WITH RYAN GILCHRIST
I’m often asked, ‘what’s your favourite wine?’. My initial thought to such a question is…’it’s complicated’. What I do tell them is this…I try as many different wines as I can. AND…I drink wine seasonally! We’re now in the midst of my favourite time of the year, Autumn. Beautiful fall colours, light jacket weather, deeply flavoured food…and football! It’s time to change up what’s in the glass to go along with all these wonderful late-year pleasures. But it’s not simply about switching from white and rosés to reds, it’s about styles. It’s time to sidle up alongside mid-weight, earthy reds and textured, properly oaked whites.
For me, the perfect Fall red is a bright, silky and complex Pinot Noir. The seductive, rich fruit paired with soft, gentle tannins and ethereal, earthy flavours provide the perfect backdrop to Fall weather and Fall fare. The ‘heartbreak grape’ is named as such for its proclivity to rot in the vineyard because of its thin skins. It’s incredibly difficult to both farm and vinify, which accounts for its typically high price. But when it’s good…it is capital G Good! It also pairs beautifully with fall flavours; roasted poultry, root vegetables, lean cuts of beef, mushroom-focused dishes. You’ll find terrific examples in Sonoma, Oregon, Ontario, Burgundy, New Zealand and the cooler parts of Australia. Be sure to chill your Pinot Noir a little before enjoying. And for younger and/or premium bottles, decant if possible.
Just because the thermometer is dropping, doesn’t mean you need to drop the white wine from your shopping list. It’s time to shelve the light, fruity whites and pick up weightier, more textured examples. For me, that means moderately oaked Chardonnay. Chardonnay, especially with a deft touch of oak, provides the ideal partner for Autumn’s chills and dining tables. The best examples balance rich fruit and warm spice with moderate freshness and savoury complexity. Until recently, it had become fashionable to eschew Chardonnay in favour of other, less ubiquitous whites. But make no mistake, the depth of aromas and flavours exhibited from top- flight Chardonnay is truly one of the wine world’s great pleasures. Chardonnay is successfully grown and vinified nearly everywhere wine is made, but seek out examples from the following areas to fully appreciate the grape’s potential; Sonoma, Burgundy, Ontario (more specifically, Prince Edward County!) and Australia.
While Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are my personal Fall favourites, there are plenty of other options that fit the bill. For white wine, bright and sunny Alsace provides a terrific opportunity to enjoy full flavoured, powerful and world-class wines at a reasonable cost. Unfortunately, it’s often hard to find good, small-production Alsacian wines in the Ontario market. When you do find them, stock up! Other whites to have on hand for Fall…Roussanne/Marsanne blends from California and France; Chenin Blanc from California, France and South Africa; Grüner Veltliner from Austria, especially the brawnier examples from the Wachau, Kremstal and Kamptal regions.
For other red wines, you can’t go wrong in the Fall with well-made, proper Sangiovese from Tuscany. Earthy, bright, balanced and food-friendly are all hallmarks of really great Tuscan reds. There is no shortage of wine in this category, but choose well and you’ll find a rewarding experience at a great price. While I adore the wines from Montalcino, they often require more time in the cellar than my patience allows.
For immediate enjoyment, try Vino Nobile from Montepulciano (the village, not the grape!), Chianti Classico, and bottles from a little farther north in Emilia-Romagna. Other fall reds that will delight include Syrah from cooler regions and Cabernet Franc from France and Ontario.
No matter where your wine tastes lie, do yourself a favour, and explore all the fantastic flavours this Fall! Next time…Winter Wine-der-land.
Worth Checking Out:
Salcheto Nobile Riserva
Not your typical Vino Nobile, there are notes of Sultana raisin, plum pie and cassis on the nose, along with some intriguing savoury aromas. On the palate, it is lush and expressive. The dried fruits are there, but there is some raspberry and sour cherry elements as well.
Barnard Griffin Chardonnay
A surprisingly lighter take on New World Chardonnay. Rob Griffin is fond of leaving acidity in his Chardonnay, and eschews new oak in favour of old. There is a touch of ripe tropical fruit on the nose, indicating the ripeness of the grapes, but it also has some of the green apple and stone fruit flavours that cooler climates give.