October is transition time. The summer days of white wine and rosés fade as heavier fare of harvest feasts and longer nights beckon reds.
This pushes white wine devotees into vexatious territory. It is perfectly permissible to drink light in fall and winter, but what if you want to broaden your wine whirl?
First hurdle: temperature. White wines are best served colder than reds—whites 49-55 degrees, reds 62-68 degrees. That is ideal, but for many of us whites come from the refrigerator at 35-40 degrees and reds are room temp (mid 70s). Cold temperatures reduce wine flavor, warmer temperatures emphasize flavors and alcohol. So your aversion to red may start at temperature.
Next, red wines have a different mouthfeel, mostly due to tannin and body weight. Reds typically are heavier in the mouth. They have more tannin—that puckering, drying sensation—and they usually have more alcohol. Alcohol and body weight work together. You don’t describe reds as “crisp and light.”
Finally, fruit flavors are different. Whites present apple, lemon, peach, citrus, pear. Reds present cherry, raspberry, blueberry, plum, blackberry, black and red currant.
So, how does a white wine aficionado dip a toe into the red wine pool and avoid a daunting plunge into the frightening deep end? Suggestions:
• Gamay is delicious chilled and has almost no tannins—it is white wine that happens to be red. Look for village or cru-level Beaujolais, also efforts from Loire Valley and Northern Rhône.
• Pinot noir is light and fruity, often lower alcohol, pairs with huge range of food. Avoid cheaper pinots that strive to be more like red blends. Think Willamette Valley of Oregon/Washington, some Central Coast California bottles that cost more than $20, New Zealand, certainly Burgundy.
• Barbera has light body and low tannin; it is friendly, no-fuss easy drinker. Italians have upped their game with this grape, now is much more than jug wine and worth a try.
• Lambrusco is a sparkling red wine. Years ago it was icky sweet swill, but Italians upped their game here, too, and now you can enjoy raspberry and blackberry with bubbles in a refined wine.
Last round: I love days when the toughest decision I have to make is red wine or white wine.