Wine editor Julie Dupouy finds wines to match mellow autumn suppers of mushrooms, pumpkins and beets …
Between summer’s warm evenings and cosy winter nights by the fire, lies the prettiest of all seasons – autumn. Shades of garnet, gold, and chestnut lining the streets and parks remind us that mother nature is slowing down and preparing to hibernate. However, before she slips gently into dormancy, she provides us with her last harvest of the year, including some of the most exciting ingredients of the food calendar whose beauty mirrors the colourful landscape all around us.
Flavours become more intense and savoury and the cool nights of October are an invitation to cook heartier and more indulgent dishes. Root vegetables, mushrooms, game, pumpkin, black kale, seafood, pears, figs and nuts are some of the autumnal treats that I most look forward to each year. The autumn larder calls for richer, smoother and fuller-bodied styles of wine, perfect for sipping slowly at the dinner table with friends and family, recounting summer stories or planning winter holidays.
Mushrooms such as girolles, cepes, pieds de mouton and trompettes de la mort are among those most highly prized at this time of the year. They can be simply sautéed with fresh garlic and herbs or can also be an integral part of more complex and intense dishes such as casseroles, risottos or gratins.
Sweet girolles, with their apricot-like flavours, can be served with lighter meats such as guinea fowl, chicken or pheasant and enjoyed with fuller-bodied, complex white wines such as those from Burgundy or the Rhône Valley. If you want to treat yourself, look out for options with a few years of age, in white Hermitage, Château-neuf-du-Pape or in Grand Cru Burgundy. These styles benefit greatly from a slightly higher serving temperature than lighter whites. A temperature around 11-13ºC will let their complexity and texture shine. They will also appreciate time to breathe so don’t hesitate to aerate in a carafe and use large glasses. Cepes, with their earthier notes and meaty character, ally so well with richer meats packed with flavour such as roast venison, grouse or dry-aged beef served with bone marrow, all served with a rich and smooth red wine-based sauce.
Right bank Bordeaux wines from the region of Saint-Emilion or Pomerol, aged Sangiovese from Tuscany or Gran Reserva Rioja are all perfect styles for such special ingredients. Open them 30 minutes in advance of dinner, serve them in large glasses at about 16ºC and enjoy how they evolve over the course of the meal.
The autumn larder calls for richer, smoother and fuller-bodied styles of wine
As Halloween approaches, windows and doorways are lined with large grimacing pumpkins. Typically discarded in early November, and quickly forgotten as Christmas decor takes over, these Jack-o-Lanterns perhaps misrepresent the culinary potential of this hardy autumnal fruit. Rich, smooth, almost chestnut-like flavours with a beautiful balance between natural sweetness and bitterness, pumpkins and squashes such as the Musqueé de Provence (orange, round, with a flattened shape) or Crown Prince (round, blue-grey) beg to be incorporated into comforting, luxurious preparations such as ravioli with a creamy sage sauce or delicate pillows of pumpkin gnocchi with tarragon and mushrooms. Pair them with the savoury and texturally generous Grüner Veltliner or Chenin Blanc.
A far cry from the jars of vinegary pickled beetroot that many of us first tried as children, fresh beetroot is well worth sourcing and roasting. If you want to mix things up a bit you can use different varieties, including those beautiful golden or candy-striped varieties, which offer different shades and shapes to your finished plate. Simple roasted beetroots with goat’s curd or cheese and a good balsamic vinegar has become a classic association of flavours. With it, you could either serve a slightly off-dry Riesling from Germany which will match the sweetness of the beetroots and balsamic dressing while also contributing an extra dimension of fruit to the earthiness of the dish. Choosing the right dry white wine will depend on the type of goat’s cheese on the plate – very mild, fresh styles of cheese call for a slightly savoury white wine with quite a bit of body such as a Pinot Gris from Alsace or New Zealand. If the goat’s cheese is stronger, I would suggest pairing this dish with a mineral, structured Sauvignon blanc from Sancerre or from the Styrian region of Austria.
Autumn desserts are every bit as yummy. Apple and blackberry crumble, walnut and pecan tart and figs roasted in honey and lavender are all desserts I cherish at this time of year. Matching the sweetness of the wine to the sweetness of the dish is key for a good dessert pairing. I would suggest looking out for ice ciders from Ireland or Canada or the beautiful sweet Moscato wines from Pantelleria.
The list of fantastic autumnal ingredients goes on and on and the options of what to do with them are endless. Put a little time aside to enjoy this beautiful season and all it offers. Hectic days are coming and a nourished, nurtured soul is a great place to start preparing for winter. @juliedupouy1 @julie_dupouy
Chenin Blanc, Secateurs, AA Badenhorst, Swartland, South Africa, €17.50; 64 Wine, Glasthule, Co Dublin.
Ribera del Duero Crianza, Condado de Haza, Spain, €23.99; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Co Dublin.
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