Jane Mohan of West Street Vineyard, in Coggeshall, Essex, tells us how to choose the perfect autumn wine for a cosy night in.
The air has begun to sharpen and summer seems to be long gone as we have experienced what, at times, seems like unrelenting torrential downpours. Choosing a wine is as much about emotion as it is about taste. With a little bit of luck, we might get an Indian summer, but you can’t ignore the fact that it is dark by 8pm. For me, the changing season marks a change in the wines that I like to drink. Somehow those crisp fruity whites and pale rosés – with their hint of strawberry and cream – don’t seem quite right for the season of mellow fruitfulness.
What I look for this time of year is a richer wine that works with my mood, which can be lifted at once by one glorious autumn day full of wonderful glowing colours and sparkling sun shine. 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. Perfect for a Halloween supper of pumpkin pie or a roast pork Sunday roast with autumnal butternut squash on the side. If the bottle is not finished at lunch, then the Chardonnay can be brought into the living room after lunch to watch the Sunday movie curled up on the sofa.
The swimming costume has gone into the cupboard for another year so there is no need to force myself to eat endless salads – so that I won’t feel so bad lying on the beach – now I can eat the food that autumn provides. Game pie, pheasant casserole or perhaps a rabbit stew and, what is more, enjoy the wines that work best with this type of food; one that delivers both on flavour and comfort.
A lovely aged Rioja would work well with a rabbit stew while a peppery spicy Shiraz from the New World would deliver on all levels with game. There is something lovely about shutting the door on a rainy day, lighting the wood burner and enjoying a glass of a rich fruity red, which reminds us with every mouthful of sunnier, warmer days. Whichever wine you choose this autumn, enjoy!