There’s a world of white wines created especially for this season shift that are poised to become part of your autumnal drinking repertoire…
When it’s dark by 7pm and just a hair too chilly for a barbecue, it’s difficult to pretend autumn isn’t here. But just because we feel the last of the summer sun on our skin, it doesn’t mean we have to turn our backs on white wine and move straight on to reds.
September is the month to usher out the dry and zesty summer tipples, and to welcome in the rich and the fruit-driven. With that in mind, the Loire region isn’t all about chateaux and Sauvignon Blanc, it’s also home to a grape that is firm friends with autumnal dishes. Chenin Blanc isn’t a variety one comes into contact with often, but it tastes like an orchard of dewy russet apples at sunrise.
A combination of rich fruit, honey and tingling acidity make Loire Chenin this season’s soulmate, spectacular with a fish pie. Controversial though it may sound, there is a time and a place for a buttery Chardonnay, and September most certainly is it. Though France is the obvious choice for this white – its Meursaults and Montagnys languishing on a gloss of polished oak – areas like South Africa, New Zealand and California offer a similar style at a fraction of the price.
Alsace also comes into its own when the weather starts to wane; its more robust and lustrous styles hitting the mark. Time to relish the Turkish delight and clove-laden Gewürztraminers with their exotic notes of bordello and pot pourri, or the mighty Rieslings, which will coat your mouth in candied tangerine notes balanced out by a cheeky lick of lemon sherbet acidity; ideal for countering hearty stews. They also contain the minerality to balance out the rich, creamy sauces we favour when the weather starts to turn.
Swing by Austria for Sauvignon Blanc’s more interesting sibling, Grüner Veltliner. Often referred to as Gru Vee, this has all the zest of Sauvignon with the additional sprinkle of white pepper and a squeeze of fresh lime; characteristics it has latterly become celebrated for.
White Rhone varietals have fall flavours down to a tee, with Marsanne breaking out of its supporting role in the Chateauneuf du Pape blend to let its pear, wild blossom and nutmeg credentials take centre stage. In turn, Viognier brings heady blossom aromas to the table, and languishes over your tongue with a warming apricot swagger.
Mind you, don’t let the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ pass you by without sampling a white Rioja, produced mainly from the Viura grape and lighter on the oak than in days of yore. From a region so celebrated for its reds, the Riojanos have now nailed the ‘zesty yet creamy with a twist of ginger’ style of their white wines. If we ever needed an excuse to take a break from our busy leaf-blowing schedule this autumn, we now have the perfect one.
Presenter and author Rob Buckhaven is passionate about food and drink, and appears regularly as a wine expert on TV, and as a newspaper and magazine columnist. He can also be found hosting shows across the country, including the BBC Good Food Show, Taste and Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival. Follow him on Twitter at @robbuckhaven
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