You may have noticed a change in the air. The nights are getting cooler, the sun is setting earlier and restaurant dishes have suddenly transformed. It can only mean one thing. Summer is officially over and autumn is now calling the shots.
But don’t get too downhearted. We are losing the lovely hot weather but restaurant menus are just starting to warm up. This is a fabulous time of year for earthy flavours, rich gamey dishes and the joys of the harvest.
So what wines should we turn to now that Rosé, Prosecco and crisp whites wines are not doing it for us? Here’s our guide to the classic flavours of autumn and the wines you need to be drinking with them.
PUMPKIN, SQUASH, BEETROOT
It’s the time of year for carving up pumpkins, so you’ll probably have lots of leftovers that need a good home. This collection of versatile, earthy vegetables are often baked and roasted. They also find their way into hearty soups, stews, risottos and vegie curries. They demand a wine with enough body and flavour to match their sweet, heavier flavours.
Wine to match: Try fuller-bodied whites like Chardonnay or Viognier. They have richness and intensity to mix it with most seasonal dishes, and unlike many lighter whites they don’t come with aggressive acid levels. Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer are great options for spicier curries.
Here we have foraging at its best. With flavours ranging from earthy, meaty, woodsy and funky, no autumn menu is complete without these fabulous fungi. They have a lovely spongy texture and are often cooked with herbs and butter to give a rich luscious taste. Truffles, in particular, can have an incredible sweaty, musky aroma that can drive food and wine lovers wild.
Wine to match: Pinot Noir is a perfect staring point. Its light, earthy flavours and forest fruit aroma create a combination not to be missed. Nebbiolo has a similar perfume, but produces more structured wines, so this will work better with heavier dishes. White wine lovers who reach for a buttery chardonnay won’t be disappointed.
Nature’s very own aphrodisiac, oysters are great at this time of year. Farmed or fresh from the sea, they have a clean, salty flavour and their silky texture can be very invigorating to eat. Classically served raw - with just a squeeze of lemon - they can also be enjoyed with shallots & red wine vinegar or an Asian-spiced dressing.
Wine to match: You’ll be looking for a clean, simple whites to partner fresh oysters and one with fresh acidity. Muscadet and Chablis (unoaked Chardonnay) are traditional pairings. If you’re feeling a bit posh, open a bottle of your favourite Champagne and really celebrate the season.
Welcome, also, to hunting season, where traps have been set and the guns are loaded. Chefs can take their pick from a wide range of birds that will end up on their chopping block. There’s plenty to choose from - partridge to pigeon, pheasant to wild duck (and grouse for the more adventurous). Because these are wild, active animals, their meat has more flavour and intensity.
Wine to match: The gamey flavours can vary in intensity, so think aboutthis when choosing a wine. Pheasant and Partridge suit lighter softer reds like Pinot Noir or even a light Grenache. Pigeon works well with a light Cabernet Franc. Duck and Grouse can make a wine lover drool when served with a top quality Pinot Noir or a rich spicy Syrah.
Forget that it’s Bambi. This lean, deep-coloured meat is something to devour on the plate. Low in fat with lightly gamey flavours, it is best served rare. You don't want the meat to dry out and become tough and chewy. It can also be braised or stewed to soften the meat or end up in gourmet sausages.
Wine to match: For recipes that serve the meat rare, try a Pinot Noir or a older Cabernet, Merlot or Malbec with softer tannins. Slow cooked dishes work better with a richer flavoured wine. Spanish reds will really bring the richer venison dishes to life. Look for a good Tempranillo or Garnacha.
APPLES, PEARS, FIGS, QUINCES
Dessert menus also see the appearance of new ingredients in autumn. The most iconic being the arrival of fabulous orchard fruits. Pears and apples lead the way and it’s the perfect time of year to rediscover your baking skills. Tarts, tortes, crumbles and strudels offer more subtle flavour yet are certainly quite filling.
Wine to match: Unleash your sweet tooth by opening up some delicious dessert wines. Sweet Chenin Blancs from the Loire Valley are brilliant with apple and pear recipes. So too are sweet Rieslings from Alsace, in north-eastern France and those from Germany’s Mosel. For richer fig and quince desserts try a botrytis style wine from Monbazillac or Sauternes.