Warming wines for the autumn

Ian Harvey

Adventures with wine by Ian Harvey

It seems that we are rapidly descending into the coolness of autumn, and with that our thoughts turn away from lighter styles so popular in summer, to the rich warming textures of heavier whites and full-bodied reds. These styles of wine are often more appealing with food and not necessarily conducive to drinking on their own, so this week we’re looking at hearty warming wines that also work well alone.

The ubiquitous light sauvignon blanc doesn’t lend itself to cooler times, but a slightly different style was pioneered in the late 1960’s by legendary Californian winemaker Robert Mondavi. His idea, unusually, was to oak-age sauvignon blanc which he marketed under the name of Fume Blanc; and found himself with surprising success. Lots of classic minerality and lemon fruit, augmented by a melon richness and vanilla, giving a slightly weightier, complex and very satisfying wine. This has been copied many times, but his Napa Valley Winery Fume Blanc is still the benchmark. Widely available online.

Moving to another relatively undiscovered treasure takes us to Austria and its signature white grape, Gruner Veltliner.

Fresh and fruity when young but with a nice peppery edge, the best wines can age very gracefully and produce richer results with peaches and apricot while still retaining good acidity.

For a special treat from Majestic’s Fine Wine range is the Grüner Veltliner Im Weingebirge Smaragd 2007 Weingut Nikolaihof. Not cheap at £30, but an absolute winner with lobster!

For reds, it’s the warm, ripe fruits of new world and hotter climates that give us lots of comfort.

Merlot, with its plum, blackcurrant, red fruits and hints of chocolate, but relatively low tannins, is often a wise choice on a cold evening. The exclusive project between Majestic and Chile’s famous Concha y Toro produces the Winemaker’s Lot Merlot ‘Mariposas Vineyard Lot 30’ 2009 Maule Valley, which currently at £7.99 is great value.

Grenache, (or garnacha in Spain) produces wines that are mainly light in colour but often with great body and low acidity.

Characterised by raspberry, strawberry and cherry fruits, hints of white pepper and spice, these evolve into noticeable toffee flavours with age. These can be very approachable on their ownand a good example is the Monte Sarda Garnacha 2009 from Oddbins. This has had no oak treatment, so represents the pure expression of the fruit, and any harsh edges are softened through malolactic fermentation. At £7.49 it’s an affordable quaffer, but works brilliantly with a plate of cheese.

That’s just a few suggestions for you to experiment with, giving you some warming wines without straying too far off the beaten track. Buy them, close the door, crank up the central heating and enjoy!

Founder of The Wine Tasting Company, Ian Harvey is a leading writer, broadcaster and presenter on all things wine and consultant on food and wine matching. Feel free to email any questions to ian@thewinetastingcompany.com or follow Ian on Twitter @UKWineBoy