The air has begun to sharpen and Autumn is now well ensconced. The Summer was a brief respite from the interminable gloomy headlines and uncertainty over all our futures both the economy and unemployment and, more importantly, the health of the nation. This year has been like no other for us and for so many families, so as Autumn progresses into winter I think it is essential for my own wellbeing to think about which wine might in some way help to dissipate this overwhelming sense of where have the good times gone and when can we get back to normal.
Choosing a wine is as much about emotion as it is about taste.
What I look for this time of year is a richer wine that works with my mood - which can be lifted by one glorious autumn day full of wonderful glowing colours and sparkling sun shine – no more so than this year as having a glass of wine with friends around the fire (one of Autumn’s great compensations) is well off the agenda.
Chardonnay is perhaps one of the most flexible grape varieties. In cooler climes it has the crisp crunch of green apples, yet just with a little more heat from the sun and a touch of oak you get Chardonnay with honey sweetened Jasmine tea flavours . Chardonnays from Burgundy can be amazing, but have price tags to match, so look for Chardonnay from South Africa, cooler climate Australia (from the Mornington Peninsular in Victoria), or New Zealand. Sometimes it is easy to think, because all we see in the supermarket is Sauvignon Blanc, that New Zealand is a one trick pony, but that is not the case; Kiwi Chardonnay at its best is elegant and fruit driven. It’s perfect for a Halloween supper of pumpkin pie or Sunday’s roast pork with autumnal butternut squash on the side. If the bottle is not finished, then the Chardonnay can be brought into the living room after lunch to watch a Sunday movie curled up on the sofa.
If Chardonnay is not your thing and you are bored by the normal offering on the supermarket shelves. There are some great red wines to be had from southern Italy which can punch well above their price point. Majestic recently had a Primitivo from Puglia (the heel of Italy), Surani Costarossa, which was full of plush tannins with lovely blackberry flavours combined with figs and mixed spice. Perfect for that steak pie or rich casserole or sausage pasta dish in a thick tomato sauce.
Or in the whites, Aldi has been selling wine from an ancient Greek grape called Assyrtiko from the mainland for under a tenner. Don’t be put off by Greek wines tried on holidays past. The Greeks took the vine to Italy and with their recent push to focus on quality rather than quantity this has meant that they have started to regain their reputation for interesting wines. Don’t let the unusual grape varieties with unpronounceable names put you off. The minerality derived straight from their often volcanic soils combined with long days of hot sunshine which are mitigated by on shore breezes from the cool Mediterranean can make their white wines especially minerally with great flavour and depth with a touch of lemon and grapefruit. These wines are often the perfect foil for roast chicken or meatier fish.
Over the next few days and months I will be exploring lots of wines and hoping to discover interesting wines to drink with food or on their own snuggled on the sofa which bring back happy memories of sun-drenched days of summers long gone. Next weeks focus is on big reds! And soon what to drink with Christmas dinner. Whatever wines you choose to drink over the next couple of weeks please send me an email with the wines that you have discovered in your local wine merchant or in the supermarket so I can try them. Enjoy!