What makes the ideal white wine for autumn?
PUBLISHED: 08:50 23 September 2016
We each have our favourite grape varieties and wine regions throughout the year, of course, but many of us move to richer styles with the cooler temperatures and when the nights are drawing in. This translates into white wines with less acidity, but fuller more textured tastes and rounder, riper, more lingering flavours.
Our taste for wine changes as we prepare more warming meals. Gone are the salads and light dishes and we are drawn towards full-flavoured, more mellow wines to accompany classic roast dinners and casseroles with seasonally available root vegetables.
Autumn whites that fit this description are often made from the aromatic grape varieties such as pinot gris or viognier, and although oak aging will add texture and a vanilla creaminess to the taste they can be unoaked too. Great examples of textured pinot gris are produced in New Zealand where the pears and peach varietal character is obvious.
For example, Larry McKenna’s Escarpment Wines in Martinborough has lovely fresh aromas and tastes balanced with a mouthfilling texture. The Greywacke pinot gris made by ex-Cloudy Bay winemaker, Kevin Judd gains a lovely honeyed note on the finish as the wine ages making it delicious to serve with richer casseroles. This grape also produces wines for food in Washington state where warm summers mean fully ripe grapes and delicious mouthfilling flavours and texture.
Peachy and aromatic viognier-based wines such as those from the Rhone Valley or Languedoc Roussillon make great autumnal drinks as do the lightly-oaked versions such as those from Swartland in South Africa made by Jeremy Borg in the Painted Wolf range.
Yalumba in the Barossa Valley in Australia are viognier pioneers and their winemaker Louisa Rose has created a marvellous reputation for making very food-friendly delicious viogniers that are stylish yet full and peachy with mouthfilling textures and lingering flavours.
There are also of course many ripe buttery chardonnays made around the world that fit in this category of autumnal whites too.
Gone are those that were big, overblown, too ripe, buttery and woody, as they are replaced by more subtle carefully-oaked wines where the creamy vanilla has no harsh woody notes and blends in beautifully with the ripe soft tropical fruit notes.
Break out of the Anything But Chardonnay Club and try wines such as the Wirra Wirra Twelfth Man from Australia, Rustenberg’s bigger but still elegant Stellenbosch chardonnay and the raft of New Zealand and Chilean chardonnays with lovely minerality to balance the ripe fruit.
Not forgetting white burgundy from the home of chardonnay and also the plethora of unoaked chardonnays from Australia that still capture the refreshing ripe buttery pure fruit of this grape variety.
Lesser known varieties such as marsanne and roussanne have a natural home in the Rhone Valley making aromatic wines that are great with mellow autumnal recipes. These are now also grown in Australia and South Africa and producing lovely ripe round wines with long-lasting flavours.
Oaky white rioja has lovely deep nutty savoury notes blended with fruit of the viura grape making them a great partner to smoked meats and fish dishes or rich salmon recipes.