5 Unique Wine Grapes to Focus on this Fall

Breaking out of the routine with some exciting options for Autumn.


I know the idea of wines being seasonal is kind of misplaced, after all a late afternoon snack of goat cheese calls for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc whether it’s summer or winter, but we do tend to drink certain wines at certain times of the year, in no small part because our diet changes with the seasons. As it gets colder our diet gets richer, heavier, and often more deeply flavored, and our wines have to keep up, but we don’t want to jump headfirst into the wines of winter do we? No, of course not. That would be silly, and what would I write about in 13 weeks time when we are awaiting the arrival of winter? No, today let’s focus on some unusual middleweight wines that are perfect as our warm days transition into cool nights.
 

Valdiguié

Part of this article is based on simple food pairing but another impetus behind it is to keep you thinking about wines other than the ones you are familiar with. Take for example Valdiguié, which if you are of a certain age you might be familiar with as Napa Gamay. A grape of mysterious origins, possibly originating in the Languedoc region of France, Valdiguié was responsible for some of the impressive “Gamays” that California produced in the 1970s that have stood the test of time better than one might expect Gamay to do. 
 

 

Valdiguié

A reliable variety tending towards overcropping, and producing for the most part light, fruity and easy drinking wines, the production of Valdiguié peaked in the late 1970s when California had some 6,000 plus acres under vine; today that total has dropped to under 1,000. If you want to try Valdiguié your options are limited, which is a shame seeing as varietal Valdiguié is a fun and affordable option for those times when you want a change of pace. J. Lohr is the champion of the variety with their widely available Wildflowers bottling which is a zesty, easy drinking example with just a light peppery edge. For a take on the variety that is more akin to what was being done by the best producers back in the 1970s try and track down a bottle of the very rare 2012 Forlorn Hope with it’s bright, juicy explosion of raspberry. Produced by Matthew Rorick, one of the new school of old school producers, it just might help to usher in the resurrection of  Valdiguié.
 
 

Mencia

Valdiguié is absolutely a fringe grape, one adored by geeks for both it’s rarity and unique character. Geeks, being notoriously fickle and easily bored tend to move on from wines year to year, which is a shame because it often takes several years of geek promotion before a wine truly hits the mainstream. Case in point Mencia; a wine of the moment several years ago and a wine that I see with decreasing frequency at geek get-togethers today. That is a terrible thing because fine Mencia makes for a brilliant wine; medium bodied and bright with a fine balance of crisp dark fruit and decisive minerality. 
 
 

Mencia

As with all things increasing popularity has lead to price increases for fine Mencia but these wines remain excellent values. Often compared to Cabernet Franc, I think the comparison is a bit extreme. Weight wise there is a resemblance between Chinon and Mencia, and they both are rather sapid red wines but the flavor profiles are distinctly different. Great Mencia is ideal for the cuisine of autumn, I’m thinking grilled duck or pork and black pepper with which I’ve paired D. Ventura’s fine Ribera Sacra Caneiro with in the past. I’m only seeing the less expensive do Burato on the market today, and that would be superb with some simply grilled fresh sausages. For those looking for something a bit more powerful the Telmo Rodriguez Mencia Gaba Do Xil is an excellent option
 

Mondeuse

Once said to be the same as the Refosco of northwest Italy, and responsible for as much confusion on that front as Valdiguié caused with Gamay, Mondeuse is a variety indigenous to the Savoy region of France where it produces wines that are dark, and a bit chewy though with acids more prominent than tannin. A bit rustic, they almost epitomize the transition from summer to fall with their dark mysterious flavors and firm if medium bodied mouth feel. I always find them to be immensely enjoyable!
 

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