With the mercury falling and the evenings drawing in earlier, it’s natural to start thinking about heartier, more comforting food. Our wine choices need to reflect this so we’ll be exploring which fruit and spice-filled wines deliver the best bang for the buck!
All the Fun of the Fare
We’re big foodies here at Wharf Side HQ, as you’ve probably already guessed, and this is possibly our favourite time of year in terms of the range of fantastic meats and produce available to us. If you haven’t already seen them, we have a broad selection of tried and tested recipes for you to explore.
Soups, casseroles, roasts, pies… there’s so many comforting options to suit both vegetarians and omnivores alike. Choosing wines to match up to the intensity of flavours and rich textures needn’t be too arduous but it helps to understand a little about which grape varieties typically pair better.
Full-flavoured & Expressive White Wines
If the summer is all about crisp and mouth-wateringly fresh white wines, autumn calls for less acidity and more richness of fruit. Varieties like Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay as well as the white Rhône varieties of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier are a great place to start. If you wanted to venture further off the beaten track, look for Fiano from southern Italy and Catarratto or Grillo from Sicily, or even a dry Australian Semillon, especially from the Hunter Valley.
Old Vine Chenin Blanc
Outside of the Loire Valley in France, South Africa has some of the oldest and most established Chenin Blanc vineyards in the world. It also happens to be the most widely planted variety in the Cape so it’s not difficult to find great examples at affordable prices.
The rather idiosyncratically-labelled range of wines from The Liberator are not only light-hearted but the wine inside the bottle is always seriously good at its price and their Chenin No.5 is a case in point. The name references their fifth release of Chenin Blanc under the Episode series rather than drawing comparisons with a famous perfume. Fuller and creamier than you’d expect with a lovely tang of orchard fruit, there’s concentration in abundance making this a perfect partner with slow-cooked pork belly or a rich, root vegetable casserole. Best served between fridge and room temperature.
Value for Money Viognier
Whilst being big fans of Viognier from the Rhône Valley, especially the great wines of Condrieu, sadly our pockets can’t extend to drinking this even on an irregular basis, so we’ll opt for a decent alternative source like the Languedoc-Roussillon.
Located between Montpellier and Béziers and just 15 miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea lies the beautiful organic-certified estate of Domaine de Brescou. Their Viognier is floral-scented with mouth-filling flavours of ripe pears and exotic tones balanced by an assertive freshness. A great accompaniment to vegetables or seafood served ‘gratin’ (topped with breadcrumbs and grated cheese and cooked under the grill).
Rich-fruited Red Wines with Purpose
In the same way that whites need more richness of fruit and weight in the mouth, so too do red wines. Grape varieties like Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Tempranillo give more colour as well as structure through higher tannin levels. Again, the Rhône varietals like Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre are rich, spicy and generously flavoured. Italian varieties like Barbera and Nebbiolo from Piedmont and Sangiovese from Tuscany, the mainstay of Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino are also well worth seeking out.
Tempranillo & Syrah
Tempranillo is a variety that grows all over Spain and has similarities to Cabernet Sauvignon in terms of colour, flavour and structure. It’s the principal red grape in Rioja. Down in the sun-drenched, central Spanish vineyards of Castilla La Mancha it grows exceptionally well, as does Syrah (aka Shiraz) and in fact Syrah has been grown in this part of Spain for well over a century.
As more than half of Spain’s wines come from this region alone, fruit prices are favourable and it’s still possible to find parcels of very old ‘wild-grown’ vineyards, which larger commercial wineries have no interest in due to simple economics, yielding intensely-flavoured berries at a ridiculously modest price.
A fine example of this is the Campo Azafran Tempranillo Syrah which is blended in the ratio of 80% young vine Tempranillo and 20% old vine Syrah. Gentle winemaking, in stainless steel only, ensures the wine expresses maximum fruit flavours with ripe fruit tannins only. There’s blackberries, black cherry and liquorice and surprising length of flavour at this price-point. Ideal with a slow-cooked chorizo and bean stew or a classic Spaghetti Bolognese. Ideal at room temperature.
The spiritual home of Barbera is around the Piemontese towns of Alba and Asti. It’s one of the country’s most planted red grape varieties often giving good yields and is renowned for making intensely fruity wines with higher acidity and lower tannin levels. The variety has also gained a foothold in the Americas thanks to early Italian immigrants and has even appeared in Australia and South Africa too.
If you want to see what lower-yielding Barbera can produce from a boutique winery, you must try the Barbera d’Asti La Villa, Tenuta Olim Bauda. Working organically since 2019 and with minimal handling in the winery, they will likely be harvesting as this week’s piece goes to print! Packed with ripe berry fruits, this wine has finesse and superb balance between juicy acidity and fine, velvet-like tannins. The full weight of the fruit makes this a joy to drink with venison steaks with braised vegetables or a wild mushroom and squash risotto. Again, ideal at room temperature.
So, light the fires, and sit back to welcome in the changing season with something a bit fuller. And, if you ever need inspiration we’re always on hand with suggestions for everyday drinking wines, something a little special, or perhaps even a case to put away.