It’s November, and for most of the U.S., that means fall is in full swing and restauranteurs are ditching butter lettuce and heirloom tomatoes in favor of root vegetables and fall mushrooms. Likewise, mineral-driven whites are (sadly) disappearing from store displays and Beaujolais Nouveau is getting all the hype that once surrounded White Girl Rosé.
Frankly, show stealing is what Beaujoulais Nouveau does best, and that’s part of the reason it’s been so popular with drinkers since its American debut in the early 1980s. Released the third Thursday of November, this fresh red wine has barely finished fermentation before bottling, leaving it jammed with bright, lively fruit flavors and hardly any tannin, making even the boldest Beaujolais palatable for white wine lovers. Plus, low tannins and little oak treatment allow the wines to pair beautifully with traditional fall foods like roasted turkey or savory butternut squash soups that would be overpowered by robust wines like Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon.
The validity of Beaujoulais pairing prowess aside, fall isn’t synonymous with these bubblegum-scented Gamays, nor is it always the perfect match for what’s on the table this season. In truth, European countries other than France also have a season known as “fall” and have been crafting unique, flavorful light reds to match the changing seasons for centuries.
The word Schiava might not induce images of the Italian Alps or beautifully terraced vineyards, but it should. This bright crimson wine hails from the Northern Italian region of Alto Adige, known for its dramatic Alpine landscape, fresh mountain streams, and smokey speck. Like Beaujolais, this wine is low in tannins and light in body, but unlike its French counterpart Schiava is spicy and often floral. The best examples have gorgeous red fruit flavors (think: wild strawberries and tart red currants) and aromas of cedar and black pepper, and pair perfectly with dishes like balsamic-roasted poultry and herbal pot pies.
Try: 2013 Egger Ramer Schiava Gentile strawberry-scented gem full of tart fruit flavor and warm spices like cedar, nutmeg and clove.
Deeply purple, Zweigelt is an Austrian hybrid grape developed in the 1920s by Fritz Zweigelt. Rich in color, but soft and graceful in body, these Austrian beauties tend to be floral, berry-laden and downright cheap, usually costing under $15. Zweigelt has all the fresh fruit flavors of a Beaujolais, and is delicious served with a slight chill, but is richer in body with distinctly sweet undertones and hints of stony minerality. With tailgating favorites like grilled sausage, or meatballs these wines score big.
Try: 2013 Familie Bauer Zweigelt, an inexpensive and juicy red full of brambly blackberry flavors and fresh vanilla finish . It’s also a twist-off—Enough said.
Heftier than both Zweigelt and Schiava, Chinon is the perfect fall wine for lovers of deep reds. Spicy and often vegetal, this earthy juice hails from France’s chilly Loire Valley, where it’s known for smooth, peppery finesse alongside braised meats and strong cheeses. Made from the Cabernet Franc grape, a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chinons have all the powerful black fruit flavors of Cab Sauv, sans the intense tannins, making it a spectacular pairing for hearty fall fare.
Try: 2014 Bernard Beaudry Chinon Les Granges, a fruit-laden Cabernet Franc with an earthy, herbal finish that make it great with mushrooms, and better with mushroom pizza.