Fall, finally. Or at least what passes for it in our city.
It’s a chance to once again enjoy sitting outside and sharing a glass with friends, perhaps even in long sleeves.
More than any other season, fall is the time we can at last put down the Pinot Grigio and re-embrace red wine in quantities. Reds offer the perfect counterpoint to the cooling air as well as pairings for heartier autumn menus.
Now also is the time when many will want to consider investing in a case of 12 to have wine on hand for holiday dinners or to offer as last-minute gifts.
But how to choose a solid, fall-worthy red from the vast choices? And how to choose wines that can adapt well to any number of menus?
Even harder, how to choose a bottle inexpensive enough to be purchased in quantity during this most wallet-stretching of seasons? Is it even possible to get a really good red for under $12?
Recently, these Mid-City wine mavens shared their passions for medium-bodied fall reds, offering not only general tips for choosing varietals suited for the season, but also six of their favorite reds under $12.
Madden is quick to admit she’s “Pinot Noir-centric.” She notes that quality Pinots offer “tremendous range” because the varietals hail from so many different places, including Burgundy, South Africa and New Zealand.
Good Pinots are safe bets because they convey personality, said Madden, but are malleable enough to pair with many different types of fall meals.
Fuller-bodied rosés are also great options, Madden said, especially as New Orleans weather continues to roller coaster from warm to cool, and deeper dry, rosé wines usually pair well with typical Thanksgiving foods like green beans, cranberries, stuffing and potato gratin.
Beaujolais Nouveau is another solid fall choice, as these Gamay-based wines fall between rosé and Pinot Noir in terms of depth.
Ribblett said autumn pulls her towards Grenache-based wines.
She notes that when recommending vintages at her store, Swirl, she always starts with the question of what the wine will be accompanying.
However, she sees fruity, medium-bodied Côtes du Rhône as particularly versatile, not only for autumn meals but also as a perfect pairing for cheese.
“Even so, the tannins are soft enough to drink without food,” she added. She also recommends wines from Bordeaux, or Italian Chiantis and Tuscan-blends as solid fall choices.
Those looking for budget reds should probably look toward European and South American labels, Ribblett said. While it may be surprising that imported bottles would run less than those from U.S. vineyards, Ribblett has observed that it’s increasingly difficult to find solid choices from California and Washington for under $12, and that the sheer preponderance of wine culture and producers in France, Italy, Spain and South America means that more often than not, she finds the best inexpensive bottles tend to come from abroad.
Good to know: Swirl offers an ever-evolving “Cheap and Tasty” rack with no less than 30 wines from numerous varietals, all priced under $12. Ribblett makes a point of offering offbeat labels, and she tastes every wine to make sure it meets her standards. As she says, “If I wouldn’t drink it, I don’t carry it.”
Swirl is located in the Bayou St. John hub: 3143 Ponce De Leon St., (504) 304-0635, www.swirlinthecity.com.
Good to know: Pearl offers a 10 percent case discount. Suddenly out of wine? No problem. Pearl also offers free delivery with no minimum purchase. Free wine tastings; see site for details.
Pearl Wine Co. is located on the ground floor of the American Can Company: 3700 Orleans Ave., (504) 483-6314, www.pearlwineco.com.