Quick: What's your fail-safe, go-to, all-purpose wine match for the time of year when fresh produce moves in from the vines to fill every extra inch of your kitchen?
If you answered "Whatever I can get fresh down the road at the winery", that's admirable. But not many of us are so fortunate to live near Yakima or Contra Costa County. And sure, there's a place for "Whatever's $8.00 at Whole Foods", if you live urban and price is foremost in your wine-buying strategy.
Our everyday wines come from afar. And we strongly favor wines from the south of France with our freshly harvested tomatoes, squashes, peppers, and greens.
I'm not saying we only drink the everyday wines of southern France during August and September, the months where northern Wisconsin gardens really begin to kick in to full production. It just so happens that the flavors of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, and Mourvedre - mingled together in a host of tasty combinations - get a lot of play at our dinner table, and in the garden now, of course, glass balanced on wheelbarrow or pumpkin.
And there's terrific white wine made from Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Clairette, and Viognier as well as some of the best roses in the world.
From Rhone to Provence, and back to Languedoc-Roussilion, there are so many dazzling variations on the aforementioned grapes that it can be hard to chose.
What makes these wines so consistently compelling? There's a ripeness of flavor alongside fresh herb notes which really compliments fresh produce. There's an earthy streak in the wines perfect for the flavors of squash, root vegetables, and leafy greens such as Kale and Swiss chard. Most of all, the wines are pure joy to drink: no fuss, just tons of fruit, character, and often surprising depth.
The wines are priced for everyday drinking. Try the regions of Minervois ( Chateau d'Oupia rouge from Louis Dressner), Corbieres ( Sainte Eugenie rouge from Robert Kacher), and in Southern Rhone (Domaine Becassonne Cotes du Rhone blanc, also from Kacher). Wines from the south have become so ubiquitous in the states that any decent wine shop should have a good choice from all these regions and more, at a variety of prices.
Many producers make rouge, blanc, and rose. Just because frost is on the way shouldn't diminish one's use of delicious, savory whites and rose from these regions. We've discovered that all flavors can match up well to a September meal.
Before you grab Cabernet out of habit or decide on an oaky, $25 Chardonnay, venture a little further for savory wines among the best suited for fresh, full-flavored, snappy harvest meals. You'll find versatility, pleasure, and an appreciation for regions which suit just about all times of the drinking seasons, but especially now.