The transition to fall means a lot of things. Sweater weather. Possible apple picking. Halloween costume anxiety. Fortunately for those of us prone to costume party anxiety, it also means a transition to red wine.
Not that we have to entirely abandon white wine because it’s cold out. But for many of us, shorter days, lower temps, and expectation of the holiday season churns up a panicked craving for something slightly richer, darker, warm and soothing. But before we dive too deep into the high-tannin, high-octane, velvet-inky purple end of the red wine spectrum, we thought, why not transition into fall with some lighter reds? Whether that means lower tannins, a lighter body, or lighter, fresher fruit up front on the palate, we’ve got a selection for you to tuck into as you unpack your sweater vests, and wonder why you ever bought so many sweater vests…
Domaine Julien Sunier Fleurie – BEST CLASSIC LIGHT RED
A classic, elegant Beaujolais wine dripping with fresh red fruits, courtesy of the juicy Gamay variety. Berry on the nose, with florals and some almost autumnal spice and delicate wood notes hitting the palate (like so many falling leaves? We had to.)
The product of a classic Rhône varietal brought from France to Lodi, California, this Cinsault comes from one of the oldest vines in the region. Classic Cinsault strawberry and bright cherry flavors flesh out a slightly fuller body with a softer texture. Ideal for leaf-peeking, or whatever it’s called.
A beautiful example of the Nebbiolo rose-fruit balance, with floral notes and jammy fruitiness. Classic tart cherry laced with spice and moderate tannins, drink this one on a cool day after (or before) apple picking.
Lambrusco may’ve been grossly misunderstood in the States for a while (ahem, Riunite), but it’s worth correcting—especially with a bottle like this, which bows to fall with depth and richness, fairly savory for a “half dry” wine, effervescence backed up by spice, buried deep.
Schloss Gobelsburg Zweigelt Niederösterreich Gobelsburger 2012 – BEST UNDISCOVERED RED
A mouthful, but just focus on the “Zweigelt” part—the Austrian grape developed in 1922 and named for its creator. Layered fruits—berries and cherry—overlaid with florals and enriched with tobacco depth. An ideal “transition” wine, easily less than 20 bucks.
Shinn Estates Cabernet Franc – BEST LIGHT RED FOR PAIRING
We’re cheating with two offerings here, since one is a bit pricier (closer to $30). A favorite North Fork vineyard, Shinn’s 2014 Mojo Cab Franc is fresh, fruity with lively acidity, ready to drink anytime. If you’re going for something a bit heftier, the vintage Cabernet Franc weaves cherry fruit through with spice and soft tannins—a pairing wine, for sure.
A cherry-red wine enlivened by spice, dark berries, and undertones of toast. Acidity balances tannin here, preserving the sense of a lighter, fresher wine while notes of oak and even licorice make it feel substantial in the mouth.
Rex Hill Pinot Noir 2012 – BEST LIGHT RED SPLURGE
From the pinot-prolific Willamette Valley, a pinot noir with loads of complexity. Dark fruit, spice, smoke, vanilla, framed within a balanced acidity and soft tannins. Good to drink right away (and why not?) or age for several years. Yes, over $30, but it’s Pinot Noir.
100% hand-harvested from 20 year-old Cabernet Franc vines, this is a red that veers toward the darker end of the light spectrum, with notes of plum and strawberry contoured by a vegetal depth (herbs, tobacco), laced with acidity and silky with light tannins.
Occhipinti SP68 Rosso Siciliana 2013 (Nero d’Avola) – BEST ON TREND
Actually a blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato, the SP68 is kind of like a walk through a lush, autumnal garden, with florals and fruit from the Frappato and herbs from the Nero d’Avola. Just what you’d want from a light red—ready fruit balanced by complexity and delicate tannins.