Like a row of trees in autumn – slowly, and then more quickly changing colour – the myriad of red wine varietals we all enjoy offer us a gamut of colours, weights, textures and flavours, in that reassuringly and unpredictable manner that Mother Nature prefers.
Words by Wine Writer, Ben Canaider
And at this time of year – following the horrors of summer’s anti-red wine diktat – all good thinking men, women and others put what’s left of their minds to the joys of those transitional, inter-season reds. Red wines that help you move through autumn at a slow speed, ready for the more powerful reds of winter. What a joy it is to live at autumn time.
There are a number of red varietals, regional wines, and styles that offer us guidance and protection at this time of year. Wines that – given their winemaking – can hint more at texture and balance rather than power and weight. To wit.
Autumn or not, some of us can drink pinot every day of the year, particularly at luncheon. I know people – I might even be one of them – that put ice and soda in ‘affordable’ pinot noir over the summer months; but now into autumn you can be a grown-up again, and drink less-affordable pinot. Looking to home and to regions like the Yarra Valley is handy; so too New Zealand, but don’t think they can’t make pinot in other places. Like the Alto Adige in Italy.
Speaking of notions that might be described as “affordable”, goodness me there are some very old-fashioned Chianti wines around nowadays that cry out for autumn and mushrooms and risotto bianco and cheese. You know, those Chianti wines that are – well, how should I put this? – characterful? Yes, they have a few rustic faults. Old oak with a touch of dekkara, perhaps; but boy, come autumn, they seem to sing. Once again, price here is extremely reasonable.
Yes, syrah, not shiraz. The New Zealanders around Hawke’s Bay were very clever some years ago when they decided to label their shiraz varietal ‘syrah’ – hinting that such wine was more of a European sophisticate than another Antipodean leer. It set their wine apart, in terms of branding and marketing, but it also provided a useful point of real difference. NZ syrah is more perfumed, peppery and lighter bodied. Certainly, drink Barossa shiraz in the winter, but drink NZ syrah in the fall.
This red wine varietal is extraordinarily stylistic, with multiple personalities, all depending on where it is from, and how it is made, and how much time it has had in the bottle. Younger wines suit autumn, as they show a good balance of fruitiness and spice and tobacco. Tempranillo’s tannins need that more evidently sweeter, wild strawberry fruit too, to help keep the wine from being too gruff for autumn luncheons. But it is tempranillo’s ability to so deftly combine something of cabernet’s tannins with a dab of shiraz’s spice, some of grenache’s fruitiness, and a heightened aromaticity that is almost as powerful and alluring as pinot noir’s that makes it the perfect dance partner for any mixed gathering.