Fall is both an easy and not easy time of year for wine. The weather is changing, so it’s less obvious what to drink. But really, fall is one of my favorite seasons for wine. Endless summer ended―crushable whites tapped out. You’re not yet in the dead of winter, where everything is big and bold and hot on the palate. You’re in between.
Practically, this means some straightforward choices, like light-bodied reds. Gamay, for example, is a great grape this time of year. Anything more old world is ideal, as you steer away from the bright, juiciness you get with a lot of new world wines.
The big (less straightforward) news: you don’t have to stop drinking rosé as soon as you think. It doesn’t go out of fashion with Labor Day. Some of the better rosés from southern France, especially ones from Bandol, are far more subdued and complex―great to drink right now.
For whites, you’ll want more texture overall, like a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley. These wines aren’t going to cool you down like ones you drank in July―they’re slower sippers, and they’re great on a cooler day. I’m also a fan of natural wines this time of year. That funkiness adds a nice savory, earthy element for the changing seasons.
We asked the restaurants for their favorite transition wines. Here’s what they picked.
Richard Hargreave | Majordōmo
Emidio Pepe “Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo” Abruzzo, Italy ’17
I’m still in denial that rosé season is winding down, so this wine blurs the lines between rosé and a light red. The freshness and purity of the fruit takes me back to the good times of the summer, and the structure and seriousness of the winemaking make me look to the colder months ahead.
Le Coste “Alea Jacta Est” Lazio, Italy ’14
This is a grape I’m in love with it the moment: Aleatico. Le Coste makes a couple of iterations. Their “Le Primeur” is perfect for summer served chilled, but the “Alea Jacta Est” is a bigger beast from their most select parcels. It’s also cellared longer before release.
Steven Sousa | Kōjin
Pearl Morissette “Irreverence” Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ’17
The latest from a local producer. For the blend, the Gewurztraminer is fermented on skins in qvevri (traditional Georgian fermenting jugs), the Riesling in stainless steel, and the Chardonnay in concrete with 6 months elevage in foudre (big wooden vats, basically). It’s floral, spicy, and slightly saline with mid weight and round texture.
Envinate Lousas “Vinas de Aldea” Mencia, Ribeira Sacra, Spain ’16
These wines are unlike others from Spain—complex, almost Burgundian in profile with a silky texture. This style of red wine dominates the list at Kōjin, which surprises people who expect big, tannic wines with steak. They don’t dominate or tire the palate. It’s about power over might.
Andy Wedge | Momofuku Nishi
Testalonga Rossese di Dolceacqua, Liguria, Italy ’16
Back from near extinction—Rossese di Dolceacqua. It’s a historical grape of Liguria and has been grown on steep hillsides since before Napoleon. It’s often used to make rosés, but also delicious as a red wine. Testalonga is medium bodied with plenty of spice and savory salt.
Vigne Marina Coppi “Fausto Colli” Tortonesi, Piedmont, Italy ’12
It’s harder to find a white for this time a year. It needs to be more intense, more savory. This wine is just that―it’s a salty and savory white, and it’s also another grape that’s coming back from near extinction, Timorasso. The body and structure are perfect for this time of year.
Ryan Ward | Momofuku CCDC
Barboursville Vineyards Reserve Fiano, Barboursville, VA ’17
Changing weather means you need heavier whites―they’ve got to have more weight on the palate. This wine is from Barboursville, one of our favorite local wineries. It carries lots of floral notes with a slight touch of honey and always makes me think of this season.
Minimus Rosé, Willamette Valley, OR ’16
This wine is very non-traditional. It’s called “The Red, White, and the Pink” because the winemaker fully ferments the red and white wines in their respective styles, then blends a combination of the 7 varietals―4 red, 3 white―to make this delicious full-bodied rose.
Rustyn Lee | Momofuku Las Vegas
Henri Goutorbe “Cuvée Prestige” Brut Champagne, France NV
This is a grower champagne with all the bright acidity you’d expect, but the fruit notes are more in the realm of overripe pear and baking spices. It’s definitely a rich, structured Champagne that sips better with the brisk breezes of changing weather.
Raúl Pérez “Ultreia,” Bierzo, Spain ’14
This wine from northeastern Spain has depths of slate minerality and loads of fall fruits―everything from ripe pomegranate to fig. It also undergoes whole cluster fermentation, which means the tannins are more nuanced and plentiful and add a nice richness on the palate.
Nicole Hakli | Momofuku Ssäm Bar
Egon Müller “Scharzhofberger” Kabinett Mosel, Germany ’13
This is the Riesling for splurging. Seriously historic plots and generations of winemaking make this wine perhaps the best expression of Mosel Riesling. It’s definitely not meant for quaffing. It’s pensive—with complex minerality and a laser-like focus.
Yvon Métras “Madame Germaine” Beaujolais, France ’16
This is a unique and rare Beaujolais from a top O.G. natural wine producer, Métras. It’s definitely not an easy-sipper. Madame Germaine has a darker, brambly character from the Southern slopes of Beaujolais, and it’s an easy compliment to a brooding fall mood.