Team Driz's top 9 must-try wines for fall
Despite our best efforts, it appears that summer is over. But it's not all bad. This fall is the perfect time to get reacquainted with all the things you hold dearest: your TV, your “book club" and that wine glass in your hand.
This fall season, we're letting our zingy, easy-drinking whites and rosés take a bit of a backseat to bring out the heavy hitters that pair perfectly with the temperature changes. Follow our guide below for nine great varietals to zone in on this fall season (hint, hint-- they're not all red!)
With a grape as versatile as Chardonnay, it's hard to know exactly which expressions to choose. For the fall season, look to a Chardonnay from a warmer region like Sonoma or Sta. Rita Hills in California or Pouilly Fuisse in Burgundy, France to get a fuller body wine that will pair well with heavier dishes like cream-based pastas or fatty fish. If you're a fan of flavors like vanilla, toast or nutmeg, look for Chardonnay that has undergone oak aging.
There's something special about drinking a peppery, spice-driven bottle of Cab Franc in the fall. Varietal Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley is the perfect wine for cooler fall evenings. One Loire Valley winemaker describes the wine as “reminiscent of the aromas of a forest after a rainstorm." So, ok, we're in. For the fall, look for a Cab Franc that has aged a bit. It'll show notes of red fruits and green peppers, and can be complemented with the smell of fresh-fallen leaves. Whether propped up by the fireplace or seated around a bonfire outside, you can't go wrong with a bottle of Cab Franc in hand.
Barolo, Barbaresco, Langhe, oh my! When it comes to Nebbiolo, Piedmont is king. Situated in northwestern Italy, the finicky Nebbiolo grape of the Piedmont region is known for producing some of the greatest wines in the world. Named after the region's signature fog (nebbia,) Nebbiolo-based wines are loved by an array of consumers (raises hand), specifically for their aromas of dried rose petals, sour cherries and herbs.
The wines are typically pretty high in acidity, making them a perfect match for hearty risottos, savory stews, and the region's highly sought-after truffles. Bonus: two other Italian grape varietals to keep an eye out for – Sangiovese and Barbera.
Forget everything you learned in Sideways, Merlot is back with a vengeance. This is your swiss army knife of reds–it pairs well with just about anything you'll be nomming on this fall, thanks to its often softer intensity, medium tannins and low acidity. It often shows notes of black fruit flavors and riper iterations can even show some chocolate notes. Look to Bordeaux in France, Tuscany or even California and Washington for some of the best Merlots on the block.
Pinot Noir is good for just about any season, but we love particularly the more savory, rustic expressions of the grape for those chilly fall days. Old World Pinot Noir, specifically from Burgundy, is typically medium-bodied and fruity and can carry you through those rare warmer weather days, yet is also savory enough to keep you toasty on cooler nights. For a unique twist on Old World Pinot Noir, look for Spätburgunder from Germany (the German name for the grape), specifically from Baden or Pfalz. The grape's renowned vegetal and animal characteristics (wet leaves, meat, leather) pair beautifully with seasonal fall flavors.
Okay, okay, so this isn't a varietal, but we can't ignore the popularity of red blends today, particularly in this season. What exactly is a red blend? It simply means it's a red wine that's made from more than one varietal. In fact, most red wines are actually blends of some kind. A common and delicious blend to look out for in the cooler season is that of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre (also known as GSM). California pumps out a lot of popular, slightly sweet red blends that are great easy drinkers. It's hard to point to one occasion or food to pair a red blend with since they vary so much in style and flavor, but it's safe to say they'll be a good sipper for any of your fall gatherings.
Best known for being a sweet, aromatic white, Riesling is one of the most dynamic varietals out there. It is very often actually dry (aka not sweet) and known to be fruity and floral with notes of citrus or stone fruits and honey, toast and even petrol after some aging. Trust us, the whole petrol thing might sound weird, but is really quite good. Riesling pairs excellently with dishes that are spicy, salty or sweet. Look to Germany or Austria or Alsace in France for your best expressions.
Syrah makes a great wine for the cooling weather with its smoky, meaty, herbaceous and peppery notes and its ability to pair with a wide array of foods. It is usually full-bodied–heavier than Pinot Noir but lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon–with medium to high levels of tannins. Shiraz–how the Australians call it–will feature more jammy black fruit notes. Syrah/Shiraz usually undergoes some oak treatment, which can give it toasty, smoky, vanilla notes. This grape has traveled the world well and you can find Syrah grown in regions including California, France, Italy, Spain, and Australia.
There's a reason why Zinfandel is synonymous with Thanksgiving: it's rich, full-bodied and packed with flavor. I's notes of black fruits, dried fruits and spices are a great complement to some of the typical side dishes and spices you find used on the holiday. When shopping Zin, look to California, specifically Sonoma (Dry Creek Valley) and Lodi.