It’s the season where we want everything autumn! Why should your wine glass be any different? And while there are many great wines that are particularly spectacular this season, the key to finding the right French wines, as always, depends much more on the food you are eating.
As cooler weather sets in in the Fall, the rosés and light-bodied wines of summer are put aside for richer, medium- to full-bodied wines, as the recipes for Fall, too, become richer. But if you are eating a tarte aux tomates with salad in September, you probably won’t pair it with a very dense red wine that overpowers the delicate flavors of the dish, you’ll probably go for something lighter, red or white.
The French eat what’s in season, and as Autumn brings rain and the wearing of decorative scarves, soothing soups and stews are enjoyed again. A pumpkin soup with a dollop of crème fraîche will go well with an oaky Chardonnay, or a medium-bodied but flavorful Grenache red from the Languedoc Roussillon region, which is not so dense as, say, a full-on Bordeaux red wine blend. You would more likely pair the Bordeaux red, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Bordeaux’s Médoc region, with a beef stew or a lamb roast.
The Art of Pairing
Food and wine pairing in France is an art that is always evolving because it is very personal and is based on what foods are in season. So as Autumn vegetables like zucchini, leeks, and potatoes are in season and served in a soup, you might pair them with a Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux or the French Southwest, for example. Others might prefer a Chardonnay.
Pairing foods and wines by region comes out of the French concept of terroir – the combination of climate, soil, geography, ecology, and the artisan’s hand that makes a food or wine unique to its region. So when in Burgundy, you will definitely have beef Burgundy made and paired with a red Burgundy Pinot Noir. Regional specialties tend to follow the seasons, and the pairing of wine goes along with the food. It’s what makes it so much fun and a new discovery with every dish and every region.
So as you are pondering what French wines to drink this Fall, look to your local farmers to see what they have on offer in terms of vegetables and meats. Build your menu and meals around those offers, and then you will have a better sense of which wines you might like to pair with which dishes. Don’t be afraid to experiment or ask your nearest wine store, or even a local winery if you live near one, for recommendations.
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