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7:00am Saturday 3rd November 2012 in NewsXtra
Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris falls for some vibrant whites, roses and reds to welcome the colours of autumn.
An autumn palate
As the leaves turn to a fiery glow and the countryside is blanketed in yellow-greens, oranges, reds and even purples and pinks, autumn's richly coloured palette is a delicious invitation to fashion our wines to cooler days, and longer nights.
In keeping with the chill in the air and a rich foliage of vibrant colour, there's a certain earthiness to fall menus which wine lovers can tune to an autumn palate, especially if the wine rack's looking a little empty.
Autumn glory also means an 'r' in the month, and the native oyster season is now in full swing. To compliment a plate of half-a-dozen, the crisp, citrus flavours of a white Bordeaux such as Chateau Saint-Jean-Des-Graves 2011, Bordeaux, France (£8.49, Waitrose) will tame this mighty mollusc. A 50/50 blend of the region's main grapes, sauvignon blanc and semillon, it's rich and aromatic and the limey crisp acidity on the finish balances the sweet flesh of shellfish, and works beautifully with firm, white fish.
A southern, warm-climate chardonnay is fruitier than its leaner Chablis cousins, and Le Manoir Du Baron Chardonnay 2011, France (£5, Asda) is a creamy, nutty white with some minerality that can be enjoyed on its own; with creamy pasta dishes or poached skate with an autumnal chanterelle mushroom ragout for a seasonal treat.
Provençal roses taste too good to limit to summer sipping, and rosy pinks such as Taste The Difference Cotes De Provence Rose 2011, France (£7.99, Sainsbury's) pairs extremely well with lobster bisque, bouillabaisse and battered fish. Fresh and off-dry, citrus and floral fruits dominate the nose and palate with pleasant acidity, and a hint of spice on the finish makes this TTD rose an absolute delight.
Deeper and more concentrated, the lollipop pink of Tesco Finest Navarra Garnacha Rose 2011, Spain (£6.99, Tesco) is an indication to the wine's weight. If you're planning a spicy Oriental or Asian meal to blast away the grey skies, this zippy rose impressively treads a tightrope between sweet and dry by combining strawberry and vanilla notes with a dry finish; just perfect as an accompaniment to chilli flavours and best served well chilled.
With the surge in popularity for South American wines, it's easy to forget that malbec originates from south west France - even though it has made its home in Argentina. To go back to its roots, try matching Rigal L'Instant Truffier Malbec Red PGI Cotes Du Lot 2011, France (£8.99, Majestic) with roasts and casseroles. A silky malbec with classic black cherry, plums and violet scented fruit, it's not as loaded as some Argentinian versions, and smooth tannins with a hint of vanilla on the finish make it extremely moreish.
Easy-drinking Rioja's such as Baron De Ley Varietales Graciano 2009, Spain (£7.99, Tesco) made from the graciano grape, indigenous to the Rioja region, remind us that autumnal reds don't have to be heavy. Elegant and aromatic with a violet nose, blackberry and raspberry flavours and notes of black cherry and vanilla, this smooth, medium-bodied Rioja is the perfect accompaniment to a ricotta and rocket vegetable tagliatelle.
Southern Rhone producer Ogier are famed for their Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and their Lirac Domaine Des Garrigues 2011, France (£9.99, Majestic) is a good entry level ruby red for a taste of this famous pebbly terroir. Smooth and medium-bodied with a nice lift to the raspberry and black fruit flavours, minerally notes, finishing with a hint of aniseed, it's delicious with casseroles and spicy meat dishes.
Or for an autumn blockbuster from Languedoc producer Jeanjean, who has linked up with one of the region's leading co-operatives to produce this ripe and lush Corbieres, try Les Hauts De Castelmaure 2009 Corbieres, France (£11.99, Majestic). A good nosing wine with violet notes and concentrated, perfumed fruit, it's rich and spicy with good acidity and gentle tannins that linger nicely on the finish. An equal blend of carignan and grenache with a splash of syrah, it's a terrific choice with a Sunday roast and selection of fine English cheeses.
:: Best buy
Winning own-label... Voted Decanter National Wine Merchant Of The Year for the second year running, The Wine Society's Society range boasts 37 wines with a wide range of styles and prices, from £5.50 to £11.95. Favourites include The Society's Verdicchio (£6.25, www.thewinesociety.com) and The Society's Rioja Crianza (£6.95, www.thewinesociety.com), from a long line-up of reasonably priced, popular wines. Created in 1874 and the oldest wine club in the world, visit www.winesociety.com for more information about the society.
:: Liquid news
Nyetimber to pass on 2012 harvest... For the first time in its 24 year history, England's largest wine estate, Nyetimber, has decided not to harvest grapes to preserve the quality of its sparkling wines. The result of unusually poor weather conditions, Cherie Spriggs, Nyetimber winemaker, says: "The decision not to make wine from 2012 is a difficult one. However, we all know that maintaining quality is paramount. To ensure the quality of Nyetimber's wines, we have collectively come to the decision that the grapes from 2012 cannot deliver the standards we have achieved in the past, and will again in the future." For more info visit www.nyetimber.com