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  • Quentin Von Essen

Varieties to Explore in Autumn

For many, Autumn is a favourite time of the year, bringing with it a welcome reprieve from the summer heat. This change of seasons is as evident as the layers of flavour in a great glass of wine; it’s as if the earth is taking a deep sigh after the efforts of the growing season and is drawing energy back into the soil in preparation for the long-dormant winter months ahead.

The Hunter Valley is a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year, but Autumn has that special magical something – a charming collection of quaint, boutique accommodation, mountain and vineyard landscapes complete with numerous hues of brown and red, cooler days and nights, warm open fires, cosy restaurants and cafes serving up heart-warming dishes, welcoming cellar doors and of course the wine.

Change is everywhere at the start of Autumn and as the seasons change, so do many of our drinking habits. For many of us, the changing seasons come with changing preferences in wine. Those crisp whites we crave in summer give way to heartier reds and heavier, more textural white wines in the coming cooler Autumn and winter months. It’s that time of year when our wine choices can be as varied as the days themselves.

So, what wines do you “pair with the season”? After doing some research, the general consensus is Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz, Sangiovese and Cabernet blends are seasonal favourites amongst the reds and Viognier, Chardonnay and Semillon amongst the whites. In general, full-bodied whites and light- to medium-bodied reds are the perfect complement to the cooler weather and Autumn harvest foods.

Here are a few Autumnal wine picks with food pairings, to stock your cellar this colourful season.

The cooler weather may be here, but that doesn’t mean you need to stop sipping on a glass of your favourite Rosé. As a fantastic food wine, the versatility of Rosé is its standout feature as it can be paired with a wide variety of foods and flavours and handles spices and heat very well – try with Indian and Midden Eastern dishes.

Those lighter-style reds you’ve been enjoying all summer are still an optimal choice for the cooler moments of Autumn, although now is the time to enjoy your Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Cabernet blends and medium bodied Shiraz at room temperature.

Pinot Noir has become very popular in Australia as an alternative to some of our famously big bold reds. Traditionally Australian Pinot Noir is lighter in colour, with a perfumed nose and hints of cherry, raspberry and plum flavours balanced by smooth tannins. It’s a particularly flavoursome wine and ideal with roasted meats, salmon and tuna dishes.

The exciting Italian variety – Sangiovese, is becoming increasingly popular in its adopted home of Australia where the variety is known for being adaptable to many types of vineyard soils and has proved suitable for cultivation across many Australian wine regions. Like all Italian wines Sangiovese demands food and is well-matched for the flavours of chicken, grilled red meat, lamb, slow roasted pork, pastas, stews or well-aged cheeses.

The typical young Hunter Valley Shiraz is a medium bodied wine showing red and dark berries, spices and a great deal of tannin. With age, the wines become far more complex, full-bodied, yet smooth and richly flavoured with some earthy tones. The bold flavours give Shiraz the reputation as a very food-friendly wine. Try it with veal dishes, lamb, steak (especially peppery steaks), kangaroo, roast duck, Indian and Middles Eastern dishes.

With the cooler months, those crisp and fresh whites we have been savouring the past few months, now also tend to make way for heavier, more textural white wines.

Most Chardonnay lovers will drink Chardonnay regardless of the season, but it is the perfect choice for Autumn. The style that has emerged today is all about letting the fruit take centre stage with other elements such as oak taking a supportive role. A medium-bodied style is a perfect match for Autumn’s classic characteristics. Enjoy with pies, buttery sauces and decadent shellfish, risotto, pasta or chicken dishes such as butter chicken curry.

Viognier is another compelling white, with flavours that can include tangerine, peach, mango, honeysuckle and even roses. Enjoy viognier with exotic dishes such as orange chicken, turkey with cranberry chutney, or any type of curry with a citrus garnish.

Semillon is proof that Autumn is not just about red wines. This Bordeaux-borne grape is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc, giving an otherwise lush, mouth-filling wine a welcome hint of zippiness to make an excellent white pour for those Autumn-inspired dishes.

Sparkling Wines can be enjoyed at any time of year – not just for celebrations. Prosecco is a fine friend for Autumn-centric starters, including frittatas, pies and quiches.

Hopefully, these give you an idea of what to replace in your cellar once the leaves start dropping. If you have a cellar full of summer wines, then it’s time to give them a final send-off and start drinking!

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