We all love the changing of the seasons, especially the arrival of autumn—the bursts of leafy color, the cozy sweaters, the energizing jolt of crisp, cool air. And just as you switch up your wardrobe for fall, you want to get your wine stock autumn-ready, too. With transitional weather you need transitional vino: flexible varietals that can carry you from the long, last-gasp-of-summer days to those fading-to-cool fall nights.
That’s where light reds come in. The range of red wines has widened tremendously over the years, from super-light-colored options to pitch-dark hues, with corresponding intensities to match. Before you stock up on thick Cabernets and rich Malbecs to take you through winter, look for leaner, fall-ready reds that are lower in alcohol but still pack a punch in terms of flavor. Lighter red wines tend to have low tannins (the textural element derived from the grape’s skins, stems, and seeds that can make wine taste dry), therefore they will be easy to pair with a wider variety of foods— you can serve them with fresh-off-the-grill steaks but also Thanksgiving dinner.
These wines, best enjoyed young, can be served quasi-chilled but not too cold. (Between 50 and 60 degrees is ideal. Anything colder than that suppresses the smell and taste components of the wine.) On the other end of the temp spectrum, serving red wine too warm is a big no-no in my opinion, as the resulting ether will knock your nose unpleasantly, also creating a less agreeable taste.
Wine is constantly evolving, much to our delight, and the wine world has grown so much, not only in volume but in regions of origin. Well-known grapes historically grown in traditional wine regions are now being cultivated in unexpected and distant places, and so many new wine regions have developed and are growing local indigenous grapes, which give a unique character to the wines. I recently discovered a couple of really interesting light reds from volcanic islands—grapes from volcanic soils tend to have a slight smokiness and more minerality and aromatics. So cool! For more delicious examples of end-of-summer reds, see my suggestions below and welcome fall with a wonderful bottle. Happy sipping!
Recommended by Rita
These four bottles are about to become your favorite new fall reds.
1. Feudo di Santa Tresa Frappato 2018
If you want a red that doesn’t take itself too seriously, the Frappato grape ($14.99) fits the profile. Aromatic and low in tannins, the grape comes from Mount Etna in Sicily and has a smoky quality without being overbearing.
2. Domaine Maestracci Corse Calvi Clos Reginu Rouge 2018
Corsica, an island off the coast of France, has long produced delicious wines. Made with indigenous grapes, this juicy red ($15.99) is scented with herbs and flavored with red fruit.
3. Pratsch Zweigelt 2017
The Zweigelt grape ($14.99) is the most planted in Austria. Due to its low tannins, low alcohol, and higher acidity, it’s one of the few red grapes that will pair very well with seafood, shellfish, and chicken.
4. Point Ormond Sangiovese 2015
This bottle is a great example of a traditional Italian grape thriving in Australia. The soft tannins and the aromas of fresh red cherries and a dash of oregano make this Down Under red ($13.99) very gulpable.
This article originally appeared in our Harvest 2020 issue. Get the magazine here.