So long, sauvignon blanc. We had as great a summer as possible under the circumstances. Your chill and crisp acidity helped take the edge off the rainless, hotter-than-usual season. Sometimes, you were the only backyard guest, and your lemongrass and kiwi character plus rapier dryness were most welcome.
Summer quickly faded, and now it’s time to change things up. Heavier wines will pair better with autumn’s heartier foods.
Rhône grape varieties — viognier marsanne, rousanne, etc. — tend to have more weight, character and structure to get us into fall. You can pick up a Rhône blend, of course, but if you should see any of those varieties, or blends of those varieties, from the New World, they are worth checking out.
It is hard to find a $10 wine with as much to offer as D’Arenberg The Hermit Crab. This blend of viognier marsanne from the 2018 vintage comes from the Australian region of McLaren Vale. It smells of ripe melon with a round texture and tastes tropical with mango and pineapple notes and a brush of sweetness. This wine spends time in French oak, which is pretty remarkable for a wine at this price. This is a perennial favorite and a great value. $10. ♦♦♦♦ 1/2
Don’t pass up a torrontés at a good price. This grape, rarely grown outside South America, is closely related to moscato and often done in a dry or semi-dry style. So if sweetness matters, read the label. Zuccardi Serie A 2019 Salta Torrontés smells floral with acacia flower and honey character with flavors of tree fruit and lemon oil. Sufficiently dry to appeal to dry wine drinkers but fruity enough to appeal to those who like sweeter wines, this pairs particularly well with seafood. $11. ♦♦♦♦
I love the branding and story of Smithereens, a wine line from Skinner Vineyards of the unheralded wine region of El Dorado, which sits east of Sacramento, California. The Skinner family has ties to the Gold Rush era, and Smithereens’ wine features an old-school TNT handle detonator. The Smithereens 2017 White Blend has been a fixture in Pennsylvania, and I’ve stocked up on it in the past. But this big wine may be beyond its best at this point. Some careful winemaking brings out loads of tropical and citrus flavors in this complex blend of grenache blanc, viognier, roussanne and a touch of marsanne. But aging is starting to show as some synthetic characters emerge. With the increased likelihood of bottle variation for a white of this age, I’m tempted to try another. This wine still has loads of flavor. $12. ♦♦♦ 1/2
Of course, chardonnay also makes for a great autumnal choice, usually having some weight and loads of character from oak aging and other processes. Wines of Alsace, France, are typically rich with a touch of sweetness.
So sauvignon blanc and other light, crisp whites, but we’ll still need you. In the depths of winter, when we tire of big reds, we’ll turn back to you for reminder of summer in a glass.
GRADE: Exceptional ♦♦♦♦♦, Above average ♦♦♦♦, Good ♦♦♦, Below average ♦♦, Poor ♦