With the harvest comes an abundance of food and flavors that are perfect for the cooler weather and rich flavors. If your family is like mine, you start pulling out the recipes for hearty meals of beef stew, thick creamy soups and full flavored vegetable dishes. Many people also start shopping for and drinking more red wines.
With fall foods, reds that have a little more earthy character are suitable. They are light yet distinctive or "dirty." The French call this quality the "terroir" which roughly means flavors and unique characteristics of the land or area in which the grapes are grown. There is a flavor in the wine that suggests it comes from the vineyard's roots and vines, not just the grapes.
Sometimes, as you compare wines from different areas, a style difference of earthy versus fruity is evident. Cabernets exhibit this difference between the Napa Valley and Bordeaux, France.
California typically makes very fruit-forward cabs that show flavors of dark fruit such as plum, blackberry and cassis. French Cabernets tend towards less fruit and more of wood, smoke and leather flavors. The French style also target their wines to ideally be consumed with food.
Another example of a varietal that displays earth vs fruit style is Pinot Noir. If you drink Pinot Noirs from Oregon and Burgundy you will get more of that earthy style than those from the Carneros region of California which are very fruit-forward flavors of raspberry and cherry. Look for Pinots out of the Willamette Valley, Oregon for a sign of quality. Grab some 2006 Duck Pond Vineyard while it is still available.
"Joy's Roasted Vegetables with Garlic and Rosemary" recipe you see on this page would pair very well with one of these earthy style wines. At a recent Frugal MacDoogal wine event, we tasted the 2003 Chateau Tour de Boyrin Graves, a French blend of Cabernet and Merlot. This wine has the age as well as the earthy and herb flavors to compliment this dish.
For Italian meals, I recommend a Barbera d'Asti. Made from the Barbera grape it comes from the area in Italy called Piedmont. These wines can sometimes be overripe and fruit-forward but yield some great earthy and truffle aromas and flavors. The 2004 Berro is perfect both for its affordability as well as its easy drinking yet sturdy style.
Wine writers sometimes reference the word barnyard in their wine descriptions. It is tough to imagine that this would be anything I would want to drink or put near your nose, but pick up a glass and really experience the "barnyard" be enjoying a Pinotage from South Africa. The winery Herding Cats produces one that drinks well because it mixes in a little Merlot to ripen it up while preserving the flavors of mushrooms and dirt. Red, light and earthy; an interesting combination, great for the hearty flavors of fall.