Au­tumn in a glass

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

Pick­ing a wine is as much about mood as it is about taste. We might have had a fab­u­lous In­dian sum­mer but when it gets dark at 7.30pm, and a chill closes in as soon as the sun goes down, it’s im­pos­si­ble to con­tinue pre­tend­ing that au­tumn is not here. I like the sea­sons for bring­ing a rat­tling im­pe­tus to make changes, small as well as large. It’s as im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore as a dead­line hurtling to­wards you at 90mph. What, you’re still do­ing that? How bor­ing are you? Why are those plans you made in late spring still ly­ing in dust sheets? Come on. Move. Live.

Like I said, small de­tails as well as big plans: there are dahlias on my kitchen ta­ble in­stead of long blue del­phinium spurs. There are also dif­fer­ent wines in my fridge and stacked in boxes on the floor.

Septem­ber is the time to dis­card all those re­fresh­ing sum­mer wines that seem as out of place now as a pair of shorts on a shoot. Let go of the steely sau­vi­gnon blanc, albariño, sparkling pink and the pale rosé from Provence. They can make a reprise deeper into win­ter when they’ll gleam, cold and an­gu­lar, against the frost out­side. Th­ese golden days, dark evenings and parks full of glis­ter­ing leaf colours are a mo­ment, the sea­son in pivot. It’s not that I don’t want to drink rosé in it. I do. But I want a rosé with more in­tent. I want it to be deeper coloured, to evoke rose­hips and wild rasp­ber­ries, have a bit of throaty warmth.

White wines that al­ways taste par­tic­u­larly good to me at this time of the year are chenin blancs from the Loire. Th­ese are wines I usu­ally ap­pre­ci­ate only in the­ory. That is, I en­joy the pro­ce­dure of tast­ing and as­sess­ing Vou­vray and Mont­louis, and so on, but very rarely have the im­pulse to open one.

Loire chenin can make very im­pres­sive and ex­cit­ing wines: not al­ways per­fectly dry, crunchy with the taste of wind­fall ap­ples and grit­tyskinned con­fer­ence pears; simultaneously savoury and sweet, like wild honey or beeswax; riven through with a kind of golden light like sun shin­ing through rus­set leaves in an or­chard. You see why they seem to suit this par­tic­u­lar mo­ment? I tasted a hand­ful this week and was struck by how very much I wanted to drink them, sud­denly, loving the com­bi­na­tion of suc­cu­lence and pierc­ing acid­ity.

Loire chenin is also re­ally good with a fish pie, the more creamy the fish mix­ture and the more but­tery the mash the bet­ter. And chuck some prawns and smoky fish in there too. Off-dry Loire chenin is also a per­fect match for an old-school au­tum­nal clas­sic, pork cooked in prunes and cream – again, the acid­ity swipes cleanly through the dairy but the wine has enough weight and sweet­ness to meet the fruiti­ness of the prunes. What more of an ex­cuse do you need?

I also look for chardonnay that’s a bit richer. Some­times this is no more dif­fi­cult than pick­ing the same vin­tage of a wine that you loved in spring, pris­tine and glassy back then, now de­vel­op­ing so that it tastes am­ple and warm. Oth­er­wise it’s the nut­tier styles I look for: mon­tagny and meur­sault per­haps. Or sim­ply a chardonnay that has a light gloss of oak, and which is golden in colour and some­how also to taste. Don’t re­strict your­self to France: South Africa, Aus­tralia and New Zealand are now mak­ing beau­ti­ful chardonnay, cush­ioned and mealy but with a glit­ter­ing wash of acid­ity cours­ing through it.

As for red wines, if you’re lucky enough to have old bur­gundy or claret at your dis­posal then now is as good a time as any to open them. It’s not un­usual when try­ing to de­scribe such wines to reach for words and phrases you might find in a Keats ode – good old red does have a mulchy smell rem­i­nis­cent of turn­ing leaves. In a good way. Also, th­ese wines are good with game: bur­gundy if the bird isn’t too well hung and strongly flavoured; claret with a casseroled pheas­ant.

Age­ing rioja is another red that matches the sea­son; com­bin­ing a gen­tle, mel­low round­ness with the pleas­ing scent of de­cay. Also it’s good with slow roast pork and crack­ling and a tray of roasted root vegetables, or with casseroled rab­bit and parsnip mash. But then so is a white bur­gundy.

Now I’ve made my­self hun­gry. And thirsty. Au­tum­nal wine rec­om­men­da­tions on the right. Hope you like them. vic­to­ria.moore@tele­graph.co.uk or visit plan­etvic­to­ria.co.uk

Keats, fruits and leaves: mel­low, misty evenings call for wines with a lit­tle more heft and tex­ture

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