Relegating certain wines to a season is always a bit unfair—like telling someone the white pants they didn’t take off in August can’t inch into October. (They can—do you.) Ultimately every wine can be pan-seasonal. Rosé in January? Barolo in July? All fair game. But it’s also true that, just like the satisfaction of tossing a scarf around one’s neck for the first time in fall, there are certain flavors and textures that signal the arrival of autumn.
For us, it’s white wines that tend to embrace their savory side and have just a bit more junk in the trunk than the wines we found ourselves gravitating to in the warmer months. Think Meursault or spätlese riesling; think chenin blanc from Vouvray or Savennières; think the whites of the Savoie, or even orange wine, whose long periods of skin contact yield intense savory flavors that are autumn incarnate.
All of these wines would be suitable for any season, but for us they tend to ring those same bells that make us want to roast and bundle and kick up some amber-colored foliage.
So, for this month’s installment of “House Wine,” we selected a mix of wines from all over the world that tend to fall into the savory and fuller-bodied category. We brought in 12 bottles under $25 to taste blind, all chosen because they represented well on paper (more about our process via our inaugural column), and ended up with five wines that will surely be gracing our tables over the next couple months.
For the tasting we were joined by Jordan Salcito, the beverage director for the Momofuku group and the owner of Bellus Wines; Ashley Santoro, wine director at Narcissa; and Amanda Smeltz, the wine director at Roberta’s and Blanca. To the wines:
2013 Immich-Batterieberg “C.A.I.” Riesling Kabinett | $24.99
The runaway favorite of the tasting, Batterieberg’s “entry-level” blend of a number of sites is always a whole lot of wine for the price. The winery is one of the oldest in the Mosel (it was founded in 911 by Carolingian monks and purchased in 1495 by the Immich family), and currently one of its most old-school, using only old wood and native yeast and bottling with minimal sulfur additions. This is just slightly off dry, and has all of the depth and savory complexity you’d expect from a wine twice its price. Importer: Louis/Dressner Selections [Buy]
2013 Bodegas Ponce “Reto” | $15
The biggest surprise of the tasting, this 100-percent albillo from Manchuela, the high-altitude Spanish region east of Madrid, was our best value. While the region is better-known for its red wines from the hearty bobal grape, young winemaker Juan Antonio Ponce proves that this region, with its clay and limestone soils and high elevation, is capable of far more than we’re likely aware of just yet. A wine with plenty of density, stone fruit and wax character, but enough acid to balance it out. Tense and textured. Importer: T. Edward Wines [Buy]
2013 Monmousseau “Ammonite” Vouvray Sec | $15
One the best values out of Vouvray, Monmousseau’s Ammonite (which refers to the fossils found in the vineyards) is sourced from vines averaging 35 years of age and fermented with native yeast in large neutral barrels. Lots of ripe stone fruit and candied citrus, with a creamy roundness and no shortage of acidity. Crowd-pleaser through and through. Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils [Buy]
2014 Jean-Paul Brun Domaine des Terres Dorées Beaujolais Blanc | $18
Jean-Paul Brun is located in Southern Beaujolais where the soils switch from granitic to more limestone-and clay-based—hence the success of grapes like chardonnay. Raised in stainless steel tanks that are laid on their side for extra lees contact, this is round and fleshy with plenty of melon and floral notes and doughy savoriness, all backed up by ample acidity. Importer: Louis/Dressner Selections [Buy]
2013 Pheasant’s Tears Rkatsiteli Amber Wine | $18
Undoubtedly the most potentially polarizing wine in the line-up, this skin-fermented rkatsiteli (that’s a grape) from the Republic of Georgia ended up charming the hell out of us after it had some time to warm up. Aged exclusively in qvevri (giant clay pots), this amber-colored wine is full of spice and dried fruit and all of the stuff fall is made of. But beware: Given the length of skin contact, this is a wine that packs a serious tannic punch and needs some fatty food to balance it out. Importer: Terrell Wines [Buy]