These days, autumn is basically a synonym for “pumpkin spice everything season,” but let’s not forget about the other cozy, delightful fragrances and flavors of fall. Whether you’re enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, relaxing in front of a roaring fire, or rewarding yourself after a long day of raking leaves, you don’t need to venture to Starbucks or a candle shop to get your fix of your favorite flavors. Instead, look for a bottle of wine that captures those characteristics (it will be a lot more fun!).
If you like: Autumn leaves
Try: Red Burgundy
Red Burgundy, made from Pinot Noir, will always exhibit typical notes of red fruit—strawberry, cherry, cranberry, and pomegranate, to name a few—but sometimes the wines from this renowned region will also feature a flavor that is a bit more savory, more wild, and very specific to the local terroir. This can be described as anything from autumn leaves to fresh earth to even wet dog. It may be a bit surprising at first for those who are accustomed to the bold fruit of California Pinot, but it’s definitely worth giving these beautifully complex wines a chance to grow on you.
Our Pick: 2012 Maison Pascal Clément Bourgogne Rouge
If you like: Macintosh apples
Try: Loire Valley Chenin Blanc
Apples are of the most perfect foods for fall—you can enjoy them fresh and crisp on their own, bake them into a pie, or use them to brighten up savory dishes like pork loin or sausage stuffing. Apple is also a common flavor in many wines, particularly in Chenin Blanc, which often smells and tastes like Macintosh apples dipped in honey, and can range from bone dry to lusciously sweet, and from still to sparkling.
Our Pick: 2015 Domaine Huet Vouvray Le Mont Sec
If you like: Baking spice
Try: Oaked Chardonnay
Depending on their place of origin, oak barrels can impart various flavors to a wine during fermentation and maturation. French oak in particular is known for attributes of baking spice or “Christmas” spice. Chardonnay, a fairly adaptable variety, readily displays these characteristics when oak (especially from previously unused barrels) is utilized during winemaking.
Our Pick: 2013 Ramey Russian River Chardonnay
If you like: Caramel
Try: Tawny Port
When wine becomes oxidized, in addition to changing in color (from red to brown, in the case of Port or other red wines), it picks up an entirely new range of flavors and aromas. Tawny port is slowly oxidized through controlled aging in porous wooden barrels. This causes fruit character to pleasingly fade from fresh to dried or stewed berries, and the development of nutty and caramelized notes. These can make for delightful after-dinner wines—try them with a cheese plate or a classic apple pie.
Our Pick: Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny Port
If you like: Cranberry
Try: Central Coast Pinot Noir
A wide range of red fruit flavors can be found in Pinot Noir from any region, but in the California’s Central Coast, where warm sunlight is tamed by cool breezes, cranberry tends to be a dominant flavor. This bold, tart flavor shows up in Pinots that are marked by moderate to full body and crisp acidity, making for a very crowd-pleasing as well as fall-friendly style.
Our Pick: 2014 Calera Central Coast Pinot Noir
If you like: Firewood
Try: Northern Rhône Syrah
Syrah from France’s Northern Rhône Valley can often be easily distinguished in a blind tasting by experienced wine professionals based on several common characteristics: purple fruits and flowers, white pepper, and smoke—sometimes with a hint of bacon fat thrown into the mix! These wines are bold, warming, and aromatically pleasing—and absolutely perfect for enjoying in front of a fireplace while wearing your coziest socks.
Our Pick: 2013 Jean-Louis Chave St. Joseph Offerus