There is something about early fall that makes people desperately thirsty for fermented grape juice. Perhaps it’s that slight breeze in the air, or the temptation of richer foods now that bikini season is over. Transitioning into fall is an opportunity to try new wines, and to discover grapes that have that ideal balance of lightness, acidity, and warmth. Before you reach for that same go-to red you drank all throughout last fall and winter, take a look at these suggestions – listed from lightest, to fuller-bodied – for some great early fall bottles, all priced incredibly well and made with little intervention in vineyard and cellar alike.
Wine: Riesling, 2012
From: Alsace, FR
If you haven’t incorporated Riesling into your bottle rotation, it is time to dive in – this is one of the most terroir-expressive grapes out there, which can be made as a dry, off-dry, or sweet wine. It’s the dry wines that most people aren’t aware about. In the eastern French region of Alsace, Zind-Humbrecht is a family-run winery known as a pillar of high quality, and for pioneering the use of biodynamics, a holistic form of agriculture that focuses on healthy vines as well as less additives in the winemaking process. This is their entry-level Riesling, and it is mineral-esque and lip-smackingly dry, with just enough floral notes to highlight the excellent fruit. Have it with pork.
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Producer: Quattro Mani
Wine: Toh-Kai, 2010
From: Friuli, IT
Meet your new fave go-to white wine, which hails from northern Italy, although it’s certainly not your mom’s Pinot Grigio. Made from the grape Tocai Friulano, this is a delicately nutty, rich white wine for slightly chillier weather. Its key merit is its versatility; the flavor profile of Tocai is complex, with enough fruit notes that it can stand up to spicy food like Asian noodles or curry, but it’s also mellow enough to compliment chicken, fish, or pasta, and would be a delight alongside hard cheeses.
Wine: “Monte Osiliera,” Tai Rosso
From: Veneto, IT
In Italy’s Veneto region, Tai Rosso is a local version of Grenache, but this wine has nothing to do with the juicy Grenaches (or in Spain, Garnachas) you may have had. It is a light red, even more like a dark rosé, to be chilled before drinking. Enjoy Tai Rosso on its own as a sipping wine, or pair it with anything from stir-fried vegetables to a quinoa bowl to grilled cheese sandwiches to salmon. This wine, from an organically farmed estate, is lovely and refreshing with notes of crushed cranberries. Light reds like this one are a quintessential wine for all weather, but in fall they really do the trick.
Producer: Domaine Marcel Lapierre
Wine: “Raisins Gaulois,” Gamay, 2014
From: Beaujolais, FR
This is a stunning value from a historic estate in the Beaujolais region of Southern France, which specializes in the amazingly versatile, light red grape Gamay. You need to make this wine part of your weekly routine. It’s fresh, just fruity enough without being at all sweet, and perfect for cool nights. Gamay wine and grilled chicken are happily married for life and I highly recommend that pairing, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anything that this bottle didn’t agree with. It’s just easy-going, and the price is right, too. Plus, a screw cap makes it a no-fuss party wine. It is recommended to serve this with a chill.
Wine: Blaufränkisch, 2013
Meet Blaufränkisch, one of Eastern Europe’s most fresh-drinking, delicious grapes, and an incredibly versatile and fun wine. This wine is from Slovenia, where about ten percent of the vineyards are planted with Blaufränkisch. Kobal, an organic estate, makes the wine in a combination of stainless steel tanks and used oak barrels, which lends it brightness as well as enough structure and body for chilly weather and heavier foods. This wine is a great bargain; if you can’t find this exact producer, there are other Blaufränkisch bottles out there that are bound to be just as interesting and food-friendly. Blaufränkisch, generally a somewhat fruit-forward wine with light tannins, goes particularly well with pork, as well as chicken or a cheese plate.
Wine: “Three Valleys” Red Blend, 2012
From: Sonoma, CA
Each time I have the pleasure of drinking Ridge’s entry level Zinfandel blend, I am amazed at how elegant the wine is at such a low price point. This is not the fruit-bomb Zinfandel that California became unfortunately known for at one point; Ridge strives for balances, food friendly wines. But the wine, a blend of of predominately Zinfandel with just a touch of Carignan, Petite Sirah and Alicante Bouchet, is decently robust, with enough tannins, dark fruits, and peppery spice, to stand up to a good steak or duck breast.