First published in The Irish Times, Saturday October 7th, 2017
I cling to the dying days of summer for as long as possible, hoping against hope that the days won’t get shorter and the temperature won’t drop. Sadly, inevitably, the weather has changed, the leaves are turning and autumn has arrived.
As the season changes we move on from the lighter wines of summer to something a little more warming, not necessarily to anything quite as big and powerful as the robust winter reds, but we certainly drink more red wine, or white wines with a little bit more body and texture. We still drink fresh, crisp whites and light reds from time to time, of course, but many of us instinctively drink seasonally. Sales of rosé plummet, and of red wines increase, once the sun disappears.
Choosing a wine is as much about mood as about the food you are serving. I often find myself returning to old favourites, such as the Protocolo below. Like a favourite old coat or jacket, or a cosy blanket returned to the sofa, they offer a certain comfort at this time of year.
My favourite autumnal wines include mellow Riojas, some of which can have a definite aroma of autumnal undergrowth, as does mature Pinot Noir. Both are perfect for all of those game dishes that become available for the next few months, or pork with roasted vegetables – onions, butternut squash and root vegetables. If you add a couple of apples the white Château Saint Auriol below would work well. If you add a little spice a fuller-bodied Grenache or Shiraz would be perfect.
For white wines with a little more richness and body, go for Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne or maybe a Godello, from Spain. All of these work really well with white meats and fuller-bodied fish dishes. I had a great fish pie this week that was perfect with a medium-bodied Chardonnay. Chenin Blanc from South Africa also has that comforting cushioned richness that seems just right on a colder evening. I have also enjoyed several warming curries in the past few weeks. My lamb bhuna worked a treat with the Grenache Noir below on a damp Thursday evening; the Château Saint Auriol went nicely with a creamy chicken curry.
Around this time of year all of those back-to-school expenses start to bite. If you are self-employed the taxman is waiting impatiently for his annual payment. So, this week, four budget wines, all widely available and all well under €15, to keep us warm in the cooler evenings.
BOTTLES OF THE WEEK
Protocolo 2014, Castilla, Spain 13.5%, €10.95
An old favourite that is on song. Light, smooth cherry fruits with a hint of vanilla spice. Perfect all-purpose wine. From branches of O’Briens
Tesco Shiraz 2016, Limestone Coast, Australia 14.5%, €9
Instantly gluggable full-bodied red with generous blackcurrant fruits and a nice seam of acidity to balance it out. Serve with red meats. From branches of Tesco
Château Saint Auriol Chatelaine Blanc 2015, Corbières, France 13%, €12.99
Perfumed, medium-bodied, textured white wine with peaches and toasted nuts. Serve with creamy chicken or pork. From branches of SuperValu
Grenache Noir 2016, JC Mas, Sud de France 13.5% €8.49
Soft, seductive ripe strawberry and raspberry fruits. Another good all-purpose wine. Serve with red or white meats. From branches of Aldi