The best wines to drink in autumn

Autumn is the perfect season to retreat with a lighter bodied red wine. Picture: Shutterstock.
Autumn is the perfect season to retreat with a lighter bodied red wine. Picture: Shutterstock.

The days will soon be getting shorter and, while this is a busy time out in the vineyard where grapes are being harvested for this year's vintage, many of us may be thinking of hibernating.

My natural inclination is to want to move away from crisp, dry and refreshing white wines and start rummaging in the cellar for a slightly heavier style of wine. But this change in the weather doesn't mean out with the whites and rosés and in with the big and powerful reds. While there are, of course, many reds that suit this time of year, it's actually the season during which I most enjoy enjoying drinking my favourite light reds, such as gamays and pinot noir.

The great thing about lighter red wines is their ability to be chilled if the days are a little warmer, and then allow them to reach room temperature if it's a chilly day. Don't be afraid to drink them cold as they are very refreshing, but will warm up and blossom with complexity the longer they are in the glass.

There is a huge interest in lighter-bodied red wines now, especially those that can be served a little cooler than room temperature.

The region of Beaujolais in France produces some of the most desirable gamay styles, but you can also find yourself with a slightly tinny or thin version if the grapes are not grown in a specific site. Choose those that have the word "villages" in the title. This means the fruit is grown in a slightly superior region and have ripened fully before fermentation. The thin-skinned gamay grape is the perfect varietal red for autumn, producing light-bodied reds that are quite dry and freshening. They are rich in ripe berries and low in tannins, are very easy drinking and make for a good stepping stone to the bigger, fuller reds that will get us through the coming winter.

Autumn is also a busy time of year in the vineyard. Picture: Shutterstock

Autumn is also a busy time of year in the vineyard. Picture: Shutterstock

There are tons of fabulous wines that are not heavy, oaky and overpowering that suit this time of the year. Now, full disclosure: I am such a pinot noir fan, I could drink it on the equator or Antarctic. But it really comes into its own when you match it with the right foods.

Pinot noir is a capricious and difficult grape to grow, but our cool-climate producers are learning to tame it. Vines are now much older than original plantings 25 years ago and can produce a combination of smoky, earthy flavours and bright cherry notes, particularly appropriate at this time of year. Think bonfires and the fungal smell of forests and undergrowth. Look for those from cooler regions such as Yarra Valley, Tasmania, Mornington Peninsula, Canberra and Southern Highlands which are immensely drinkable.

Some of the wonderful Spanish varieties such as tempranillo or a sangiovese from Chianti will be just the ticket to watch the sun setting at 5pm.

If you really find the tannin and oak treatment that most red wines express too much for your palate, then choose a white with a broader flavour profile, such as chenin blanc from Margaret River, fiano, arneis and vermentino.

And don't ignore your rosés. The crisper, lighter and dryer versions seem to shine in summer but there are wonderful styles better suited to autumn that have more complexity. When rosé is produced from thicker-skinned grapes such as cabernet sauvignon and shiraz, you get a lot more flavour and body - perfect for watching leaves falling.

Food for thought

Wines with a natural acidity and a low level of tannins work well with a wide variety of foods. Roast chicken, chicken tagine with apricots and olives, pork sausages, duck with plum sauce and seafood such as salmon, roast cod, sushi and fried calamari. Try a goat's cheese or creamier brie cheese. And vegetables such as potatoes, onion rings, spinach salad, beets, red quinoa, walnuts, pecans and mushroom.

This story Fall in love with these beautiful wines in autumn first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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