Autumn is one of my favorite times to drink wine, aside from the rest of the year. While chilled whites and temperate reds are always in season, the varying temps of fall make both particularly appropriate day-by-day. Grab a glass and let me tell you how to make the very most of the coming weeks.
Midterms are coming. You can tell because everybody looks like they got into a head-butting fight with a truck. The lack of sleep and dangerous doses of caffeine rushing through your body are destroying you, your future looks bleak and there’s not enough makeup in the world to cover up the wrinkles you now have from keeping your eyes open by lifting your eyebrows. But I come bearing excellent news: wine is healthy. No, really. Multiple studies have suggested that having 1-2 drinks of any alcohol a day can decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and early death. But wine specifically has been shown to decrease mortality considerably in wine-drinkers over beer and hard liquor drinkers and the tannins in red wines protect against heart disease. Moreover, a Columbia University study showed that brain function declined at a slower rate in moderate drinkers than teetotalers.
Now that we’ve established some good reasons to have a pour, let’s figure out what we’re putting in that big glass of health.
The typically crisp and cool nights of October classically lend themselves to robust red wines. Try a Rhône-style blend or Grenache. This varietal traces its origin to southern France, where it was blended to create the now iconic Châteauneuf du Pape. Grenache is now the second most ubiquitous grape in the world, so it’s not hard to find in the store. Typically presenting with mild fruit and spice, it’s not too intense, in case you typically find the in-your-face nature of reds to be off-putting. The Grenache-containing Rhône-style blends tend to be even more tame.
Syrah is another good option. This grape grows all over the place and is almost invariably bottled with the flavors of dark cherry, leather and earth. I’ve even known a Syrah to taste like fallen leaves smell — in a good way. Try pairing it with soup to stay extra warm.
For something particularly intense and interesting, elect for a Zinfandel from California’s central valley or coast. These aren’t for pairing with a meal, they are the meal. A good Zin will be intensely jammy with strawberry, plum and zesty pepper. It’s exactly what you want to ease away the pain of a long, cold day of dealing with other human beings.
However, if you’re cozying up next to the radiator to watch some Netflix and you want a wine with a little less bite, look for a Pinot Noir from the Sonoma coast or Russian River Valley. They’re usually smooth, supple and overrun with ripe berry — oh so drinkable.
If reds aren’t your proverbial cup of tea, rest assured that there are some whites to fit the fall bill. Chardonnay comes in two varieties: oaked and unoaked. An oaked Chardonnay — one that has been aged in oak barrels — serves savory realness, full of rich butter and earthy bread. An unoaked Chardonnay is aged in steel instead and is more fruit-forward with green apple and fresh cedar. For a sweet night-ender, pour yourself a glass of Riesling, which spans the gap between regular wine and dessert wine, presenting lots of stone fruit to bring you back to warmer days. Serve these lighter varietals chilled.
Let’s not forget our more energetically-corked friends. As always, sparkling wine is appropriate in autumn, winter, spring, summer, weekends, weekdays, evenings, afternoons and mornings. Relieve the pressure in your head by releasing the pressure from a bottle.
“But I want something cold with the more intense structure of a red,” I hear you say. Well, you can have the best of both wines in this world. Meet rosé, the superior to rose-b. Rosé just happens to be my favorite style of wine and is an absolute imperative for the warmer days of autumn, like we’ve been having lately. It’s served chilled like a white, is smoother and more drinkable like a white, but has structure and body more akin to a red. They sit in the very, very happy medium that can bring you back to summer and prime you for winter. Rosés come in a number of tints and in general, a darker rosé will have more tannin and red wine character than a lighter rosé. So grab a bottle (you can find them anywhere), and cool off with a glass outside this weekend, soaking up the final moments of warmth as the sun sets on this fabulous fall. Cheers.