What makes a red wine fall -- or should we say, fall in love -- worthy? Given the record-setting quantities of rosé we consumed over the past few months, you might assume that getting us to loosen our death grip on pink wines would equal a Herculean feat.
In reality, we relish the changing of the seasons -- after all, the drop in temperatures opens the door to a whole new category of bottles to savor between now and Christmas. The best kinds of fall wines are neither too light nor too heavy; we're not quite ready for the jammier shiraz and zinfandels we'll be reaching for once the snowflakes really start flying. Instead, these cool weather reds are slightly more intellectual -- they satisfy our craving for fuller-bodied wines while delivering an element of the unusual; plenty of hard-core fruit backed by mouthwatering acidity, or bold, spicy numbers that are balanced enough to enjoy sans food. Turn the page to discover four bottles that will surprise and delight you -- and definitely keep you cozy while you watch the leaves turn colors.
Weingut Moric Blaufränkish 2010 ($26): Austrian wine, you say? Hell, ja. This wine hails from the very eastern-most part of the country, where a warm and sunny microclimate helps these grapes get nice and ripe -- resulting in an incredibly juicy wine. If you've never had this variety (btw, how much fun is it to say the name "blaufränkish?"), close your eyes and conjure up the flavor equivalent of a cross between Burgundian pinot noir and Barbera d'Alba. Tangy, slightly spicy cherry fruit? Palate-tingling acid and a damn-near endless finish? One word: Obsessed.
Ca'Del Sarto Refosco 2010 ($9): When a sommelier recently blind tasted us on this wine last month, we wrongly guessed it was a blaufränkish. We took solace in the knowledge that these wines actually have a lot in common: These regional neighbors (northern Italy's Friuli-Venezia-Giulia district shares a border with Austria), both feature bright berry flavors and make for kick-ass dinner pairing partners. This particular refosco is a bit heartier in style than the blaufränkish, though -- further sips of the wine revealed a more rugged mouthfeel and darker, more extracted berry flavors. If these two wines were cars, the blaufränkish would remind us of an Audi -- sleek, elegant, refined. The refosco? Well, it's more like a Volkswagen: reliable and efficient, it always gets the job done -- but in an oh-so-satisfying way.
Poggio Anima Asmodeus Nero d'Avola 2010 ($13): This wine illustrates everything we love about Club W, the Denver-based wine-delivered-to-your-doorstep startup that's been booming ever since its launch last year. Why? Because it was a nero d'avola we'd never tried (and probably wouldn't have found on the shelves of our neighborhood bodega) and it was hella cheap. Of course, none of that would have mattered if the wine had sucked; luckily for us, we adored it. What makes this wine so ideal for fall is its versatility. The lush, bold blackberry and cola flavors means you can pour it alongside the burgers you'll be serving at your last backyard barbecue of the season; its oak-tinged smoke and warming spice notes will make it just the thing to sip solo on the eve of the first frost.
Finca Decero Remolinos Vineyard Petit Verdot 2008 ($32): We did a quick double-take when we spied this bottle -- varietal petit verdot wines are harder to score than first-class upgrades on transcontinental flights. That's because this late-ripening, Bordeaux-born grape was relegated to blending-only status for most of its career before coming into its own in new world winemaking regions such as Australia, California and in this delicious instance, Mendoza. Think of this wine as cabernet sauvignon's somewhat moody -- yet wildly intriguing -- younger brother: there's a kind of brambly, intense quality that surrounds a core of harvest-ready blueberry, blackberry and boysenberry fruitiness. Then there's that distinctly petit verdot-ish element of steely graphite (Remember licking the tip of a pencil back in grade school? It's that flavor.) that adds yet another layer of fantastic on top. After sampling this perfect-for-fall wine, you'll be searching high and low for petit verdot bottlings like it's your day job.
Welcome to fall, wine lovers.
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