The equinox has passed and the nights will be longer than the days for the next 6 months. Bad news for SAD people, better news for vampires, zombies and Jacob Trans Moggrified. So we thought we’d recommend some wines for longer evenings and heartier fare.
You thought rosé days were on the wain? How about an autumnal alternative? Cerasuolo is a wine made from Montepulciano grapes in Marche and Abruzzo on Italy’s Eastern flank. It’s a kind of rosé, but might equally be described as a light red. Yes, we know it’s dark. But take it from us, it really isn’t sweet! Think strawberries with black pepper and a dry, tannic finish. Ideal fo late season barbecues, baked potatoes and chestnuts roasted in the embers of a bonfire, rustic patés, butternut squash soup and hearty salads.
If a dark rosé isn’t challenging enough to your deep-seated colour prejudices, how about an orange wine? No, it’s not wine made from oranges, but a wine made in the way that red wine is normally mage, but using white grapes. It needs to be the kind of grape that turns golden as it ripens – Sémillon and Gewürztraminer both work well. When pressed, the grape juice is not drawn of straight away but is left in contact with the skins (and pips) for anything ranging from a few days to several weeks. The juice draws colour and tannin from the remaining grape pulp t give the wine a deeper, more earthy, drier character as well as anything from a golden to amber hue. That’s why it’s called orange wine.
Now we’ve tried some weird and wonderful orange wines in order to find the diamonds in the rough. And man, some of them have been R – O – U – G – H ! But this one’s a beauty. La Meranja Mecanica from Portugal isn’t at all rustic. On the contrary, it’s crisp and clean, clean, clean. A nose that could be mistaken for Sauternes – honey, ripe fruit and a hint of burnt rubber(!) – leads into a wine that is crisp and yet deep, full of dry, honeyed orange peel. It’s great as an unusual aperitif, but also would be worth a try with hot-smoked fish, mackerel paté, and mild-medium cheese such as mature Gouda or proper Wensleydale.
So what other curve-ball can we send your way? How about a sparkling red? Moxie, from Dowie Doole in McLaren Vale, Australia is wine all of its own. It’s made from Shiraz grapes and so has some of those lovely, deep leathery notes that we expect. But the dosage for the second fermentation brings out a sweetness that makes this wine almost like a sparkling port. It’s dry, don’t get us wrong, but there’s ripe berries and a touch of dark chocolate in there too. Try it with cheese, too, but also try it with rich fruit cake or a selection of salty snacks as an aperitif.
Not often would I consider putting El Garbi Blanco into a selection of 6 wines as ‘something more conventional’ but here it is. El Garbi is the old Arab name for the wind that wafts in from the Mediterranean into the mountains of the Terra Alta, just in land from Tarragona in Catalonia, Spain. It’s made from Garnacha Blanco (Grenache Blanc), which down in the valley can produce big, peachy wines, but up in the hills offers something much more restrained and minerally. The wine would be almost acerbic if it were not fermented in open oak casks that give it smooth, cream and honey notes to balance its earthy minerality. Again, a perfect match for salty snacks, but also ballsy enough to go with a full roast chicken dinner or the kind of firm fleshed fish with garlic and capers that would blow away a lighter Muscadet.
Another more conventional wine choice for the Autumn is Pinotage from South Africa. It’s background smoky notes always work well at bonfire parties and it’s a surprisingly good match for Indian food, particularly of the street food variety – think samosas or stuffed puri. It’s also great with earthy lentil dishes. Ours, the very affordable Gun Bay Pinotage, will not let you down.
And finally, once the fire is lit (either actually or metaphorically) it’s time for a glass of Port, maybe? The new Port of Leith Port is a cracker. It’s extra deep because it’s been selected by the Port of Leith distillery for the depth of its woodiness as that will provide the best casks for then going on to condition their whisky for years into the future. In the interim, try the Port now!