There we were, basking in the warm autumn sunshine, thinking the Indian summer would go on forever, when suddenly it’s winter!
Out with the scarves and woolly jumpers, order the logs, make sure the chimney is swept and start making those yummy casseroles. With fog, frost and dark evenings, summer soon becomes a distant memory, but autumn and winter can bring a lot of enjoyment on the culinary and wine front.
Time to get those pots rattling in the kitchen, cooking up a storm with boeuf Bourguignon, coq au vin, daube a la bordelaise, slow cooked beef cheeks, but a few of the fabulous casserole dishes which are relatively easy to put together and yet so full of delicious flavours. The appreciation of all of these is, of course, enhanced by the accompaniment of a flavoursome wine and with the vivid colours of autumn still decorating our countryside, a characterful red would seem to fit the bill. Here is a little cluster of autumn reds, just right for a cosy kitchen supper with a candle or two.
First up are a couple of Pinot Noirs, each quite different from the other. Pinot Noir wines are always relatively light in colour as the grape variety has very thin skins.
The skins of red grapes are where all the colour comes from, along with the tannins.
In this grape variety, the tannins are thus also quite light, unless extra comes from ageing in oak barrels. Bourgogne Pinot Noir Couvent des Jacobins 2015 from Louis Jadot is a very elegant red Burgundy, with medium body, yet with delicious fruit, soft tannins and a deep, lingering finish. A great accompaniment to a sausage casserole or, of course, boeuf Bourguignon with its medium bodied sauce. £17.65 from specialists or on-line.
The other Pinot Noir comes from the Aconcagua Valley in Chile. The Errazuriz Estate Pinot Noir 2016 is also delicate but has greater intensity of fruit on aromas and palate, with fresh, juicy flavours and depth from some ageing in French oak. Excellent with chicken casseroles, lamb casseroles, or even a creamy fish pie. Super value at £10.50 from Majestic.
My next two autumn reds are deeper and richer, suitable for richly flavoured braised dishes and casseroles made with beef or game. The South African producer Zalze, has a wonderfully rich, soft and spicy wine from the Western Cape, made from a blend of Shiraz, Grenache and Viognier varieties, 85 per cent being Shiraz in the 2017 vintage. The deeply coloured wine has plenty of ripe tannins and spicy fruit, with a great combination of savoury and ripe red berry flavours. Maturing in old oak for 14 months has added to the harmony and complexity.
Amazing value at £7.85 from The Co-Op.
Pair with slow roasted beef cheeks, roasted for six hours in half a bottle of the same wine.
The final selection is also from the so-called New World, this time from New Zealand. Villa Maria, the leading producer of New Zealand wines, has a range of delicious reds, alongside their famed Sauvignon Blanc wines. The Private Bin Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 from the Hawkes Bay region is made in a Bordeaux style and is rich and satisfying. Aromas and flavours of blackcurrant, red plums and herbs, the full-bodied palate has rich, supple tannins and a delicious, smooth finish. £14.20 from Asda. Savour with richly flavoured beef braised in red wine, such as ‘daube a la Bordelaise, pot roasted shin of beef or pheasant breasts.
Naturally, all the dishes above must be served with a generous side of sliced, roasted pumpkin!
Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Follow him on Twitter @richardwje or visit www.winewyse.com.