Wines for the times: The changing seasons
“What’s your favorite wine?”
It’s a question I get often from people who know that I write about wine. “The one I’m drinking right now,” is the flip answer I usually give. It’s not that I am being dismissive or evasive. Rather it’s that there are so many wines and so many different circumstances in which I consume those different wines that it is almost impossible to give a definitive answer.
And besides, “the one I’m drinking now” is actually a pretty good response. Because generally when I am drinking wine it usually fits well with both the place where I am and the time of the year.
I got to thinking about this during the recent snowstorm that arrived in the mountains heralding the change of seasons. “Time for some bigger reds,” I thought as I perused my wine rack that was still filled with plenty of rosé and sauvignon blanc that had been the mainstay of my summer sipping. While there are not rules like “no white after Labor Day” with wine, there is a natural evolution that takes place this time of year in how we look at all things, wine included, that dictate changes to our habits.
That said, I began to think about what wine to open to pour with a pot of beef and veggie stew that my wife was planning to prepare on a snowy Sunday. A world of possibility opened as I considered the regions of the world that made wines with a plethora of different grapes to go with the hearty fare that is so much a part of late fall and the coming winter.
I could stay home and decant a bottle of an elegant and expensive Napa cabernet sauvignon. I could turn the key on the cork of Bordeaux, perhaps a velvety merlot from the Right Bank. How about an Aussie shiraz from Penfolds or a Catena malbec from Argentina? Syrah and the wines of the Northern Rhone by the house of Chave, with their peppery profiles, are among my favorites. Or I could simply crack a simple but powerful chianti with the evocative Black Rooster on the label
I opted for a different gem from Tuscany. Not the most expensive or the most obscure wine, but a treasured bottle of Ca’Marcanda made by a winery conceived by Angelo Gaja in Bolgheri, near the Mediterranean Coast, that I had visited four summers ago. This bottle, under the Promis moniker, was from the 2016 vintage (the year of my visit), and was a blend of merlot, syrah and sangiovese.
It covered all of my bases. I had a memory of its place of origin and it was made from the grapes that I coveted for the season.
As I poured it into the glass I felt pampered in a way only the wines of Italy offer. The smell of the scrub oak and the sea, the warmth of a cashmere sweater with collar turned up ’round the neck as the wind blows, the thrill of a sleek Alfa Romeo as it tames mountain roads running through vineyards. Thoughts of all of these (currently out of reach) indulgences came to mind as I poured the delicious wine.
And it was perfect with the stew. At that moment I may well have answered the earlier query with “Ca’Marcanda Promis 2016.”
But that is the thing about wine. Perfection is based and built around moments, circumstances and seasons. Now, as we sit on the cusp of winter, is a time where a little more heft, a little warmth, is called for, not just in wines, but in the foods we prepare and eat as well. The stew is one example, but cheesy lasagna, pizzas fresh from the oven, braised veggies and roasted potatoes — even meatloaf — all go well with deeper red wines in your rack, cellar or wine shop.
Now I’ll drink the aforementioned Ca’Marcanda anytime. I would open one up on a sunny summer’s eve with some grilled meats and veggies. But it just seems to be more in keeping with the times as the days grow short and the temperatures drop.
Yes, now is the time to drink red wines. Big, bold, structured, rich, lush, comforting, satiating red wines from around the globe. Savor the season.
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Bubble dining — plus a couple of yurts — are carrying the momentum of the indoors-outdoors private dining experience in Aspen this winter season.