Lauren Friel on August 31, 2016 0 Comments Though it’s true we still have some time before the leaves start changing, it’s never too soon to start planning next season’s cellar. As the evenings cool and lengthen, we’ll look to wines that offer versatility and just a bit more depth for the heartier fare on our tables and the last nights at the grill. It’s not time for those full-bodied reds just yet, but somehow all that flinty rosé just doesn’t do the trick come late September. Let’s look at a few unexpected shoulder-season wines to help us descend gracefully from the heights of summer into the autumn weather. For ideal drinkability in the changing weather, you should serve all of these wines at cellar temperature (55-56°F). 1. Orange Wine (Hint: It’s not made from oranges.) Orange wine (or “Amber wine,” as it’s becoming known) is often sold as “white wine for red wine drinkers.” While it’s true that orange wine’s naturally pronounced tannic structure and rustic expression tends to lend itself to comparison, it deserves a category all its own. Produced using the most ancient winemaking traditions, the trendy newcomer has its roots in Ancient Greek, Roman and Georgian winemaking practices, when red and white grapes were treated the same in the winemaking process. That meant that white grape must stayed in contact with the fermenting juice for an extended period of time (extended maceration), just like red grapes do today. As the grape skins broke down, they deposited in the wine, lending tannin, savory herbal notes and – you guessed it – deeper, orange color. The orange wine process varies a bit today from producer to producer, but the basic idea is the same. Whatever the method, the results are delicious, and they’re ideal for grilled poultry and rich vegetarian or Indian dishes. 2. Southwestern French Rosé The heartier, Spanish-influenced pink wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon, Côtes Catalanes and beyond are the perfect transition from those gulp-able Provençal darlings. Often based on a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Carignane, the slight weight and structure boost provided by the warm climate and native cépage means you get refreshment without lacking complexity. For a truly unique experience, look for the rosés of Irouleguy, where Tannat and Cabernet Franc come together for an iron-rich, wild herbal expression that begs for grilled meats and root vegetables. 3. Aged German Riesling There’s nothing quite like a glass of Trocken Riesling on a hot July night, but Riesling doesn’t have to be all verve and minerals. The earth and richness of a Riesling with a bit more age continues to astound even the most seasoned wine lovers (Terry Theise himself claims this is his very favorite time to drink the depths of his cellar), and this in-between season is the perfect time to experience it. For filigreed fruit and deep minerality, look to the Mosel, especially Spätlese wines with a bit more weight. If you cherish spice and opulence, the Pfalz is your go-to region. Before German Riesling fell out of favor with the wine fashionistas, it was considered one of the greatest wines in the world, coveted by aristocracy the world over. Before Chablis, it was the preferred wine with seafood – scallops in particular. You know where we’re going with this: Find the freshest scallops around, dress them in butter and never look back. Worried about getting a bottle that’s past its prime? Don’t know where to start? Here’s a tip: Check out the alcohol percentage on the label. If it’s a bit higher (11.5% or more), there’s a good chance the wine has good potential for age. 4. Cru Beaujolais While you anticipate the arrival of the Beaujolais Nouveau, slake your thirst with the good stuff – gamay from one of Beaujolais’ ten Crus, or designated zones within the appellation of Beaujolais. It’s true that these lighter-bodied, chill-able reds are often suggested as the ideal Thanksgiving pairing, but why wait? There’s nothing that calls for the bramble and minerality of, say, Fleury on a cool late September evening like a dinner of grilled salmon enjoyed outside. And remember, the old idea that Beaujolais must be consumed young is just that: old. Look for back-vintage offerings of more powerful appellations like Morgon and Moulin-À-Vent for an oft-overlooked experience. 5. Lambrusco It’s hard to imagine tiring from sparkling wine, but after a whole summer of bubbles on the beach, bubbles on the boat, bubbles in the backyard and bubbles at every wedding toast, you might think twice before popping another cork. Still, there’s nothing quite like a glass of something fizzy when you’re looking for the ultimate refresher. That’s where Lambrusco comes in. The traditionally vivace red wine hails from Emilia-Romagna, where it’s the local favorite with charcuterie and pizza (of course). Though it got a bad rap in the 1970s for being a semi-sweet, soda-like beverage, the real deal is bone dry, with fine tannins, soft fizz, perfectly ripe fruit and just a kick of earth that meets Italian cuisine head-on. It’s the ultimate pizza party wine. (AKA: the ultimate Netflix and chill wine). 6. Amontillado Sherry Pour a glass of amontillado, throw a pork chop on the grill and thank us later. This unsung hero of Spanish wine culture deserves a bit more love, and you’re just the one to give it. A product of the uniquely Spanish solera system (picture wine barrels stacked on their sides in Olympic ring format), amontillado is oxidized and blended over years (sometimes decades) after aging under flor, a yeast cap that requires mind-bendingly specific climatic conditions to occur. There are only a few places in the world where flor can thrive, but Jerez de la Frontera, in Spain’s Andalusia region, is by far the most famous. Without flor there wouldn’t be sherry, and without sherry, well…we don’t even want to think about that. The extended oxidation the wine undergoes yields a dry (no Bristol Cream here, thank you), nutty, deeply complex wine that, while lovely on its own, truly sings with that special something in pork fat. Not as briny as a manzanilla, not as rich as oloroso, it’s just right. May we suggest you treat yourself to some Jamón Ibérico?