How to Develop an Exceptional Seasonal Wine Menu

Sep. 17, 2019

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Transitioning to a new season brings on change and that can be a good thing, especially when it comes to your wine menu.

Seasonality plays a large role in the culinary world. Utilizing the freshest ingredients will yield superior dishes for your customers. Wine follows the same seasonality path and incorporates composition and structure to enhance the success and enjoyment of wine.

In the wine world, seasonality can refer to how a wine pairs with ingredients that are in season for that region. “Certain ingredients respond more favorably to the structure of the wine in terms of acidity, sweetness, tannin and body,” said Christopher Rowell, Wine Educator, Breakthru Beverage Group.

“This is especially prevalent in Old World regions where multiple generations of people have embraced the saying, ‘What grows together, goes together.’ They’ve mastered what works well, and tend to stick to tried and true pairings.”


Food as the Focus

During the fall truffle harvest in Piedmont, Italy, locals are more inclined to choose a full-bodied, earthy Nebbiolo-based wine to complement fresh truffle shavings sitting atop rich, buttery pasta.

When it comes to structure, Italians would turn to a Barolo when the tannic, powerful and highly aromatic wine matches the classic cuisines of the cooler season. A pasta primavera style dish served in July, however, would show better with a fresh, clean, herbal- or mineral-driven white. 


Sans Food

When food isn’t the main attraction, the attention can be shifted solely to the wine. When out enjoying an outdoor summer activity, a rich, bold red wine may not be the best choice to sip. The tannins would show heightened astringency, the alcohol would overwhelm your nose with pungent, burning vapors, and the overall heaviness isn’t ideal for the season.

A less-tannic Beaujolais Villages could work in this situation. You'd reduce the potential for astringency, bitterness, heaviness and chronic cotton-mouth of the bolder, bigger red.


The Fall Transition

“During the fall, you’ll want to increase the level of richness, weight and alcohol with your wine list, while lowering the level of acidity.” Rowell said. “You can also include a stronger influence of oak, which was previously considered an avoidable characteristic during summer.”

The following white wine suggestions have just enough weight and structure to provide the extra support you may need for fall foods, while their sweetness is a perfect match for the seasonal use of spice and heat.


Fall White Wine Styles

Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc
Domestic: OR, CA
International: Alsace, FR

Pinot Grigio
International: Friuli, IT

International: Tuscany, Liguria or Sardinia IT

Chenin Blanc
International: Loire Valley, FR or South Africa


Fall Rosé Styles 

Rosé is often considered a strictly summer wine style to be finished off by Labor Day weekend and not to be thought of until the following spring. But we’re here to debunk that myth.

“Opting for a fuller style is like donning a lightweight sweater to keep you warm in the chilly weather,” Rowell said. “Richer, riper, higher alcohol rosés better match the season. In addition to higher alcohol & viscosity, the grape varieties used, often pinot noir or syrah, have natural flavor characteristics of earth and/or spice that also pair well with the fall cuisine options.”

Rosé of Pinot Noir
Domestic: OR, CA

Rosé of Syrah
Domestic: Columbia Valley, WA; California’s central coast


Fall Red Wine Styles

Your first instinct may be to grab the full-bodied, muscular, tannic red options that have been stored all summer to celebrate the changing of seasons, but consider easing into the fall with light to medium bodied options. Your customers can experience the richness and concentration without those heavy tannic characteristics.

Pinot Noir
Domestic: Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley and Carneros, CA; Willamette Valley, OR
International: Casablanca, San Antonio and Leyda Valleys, CL; Mendoza, AR; Martinborough, NZ 

Domestic: Paso Robles or Santa Ynez Valley, CA
International: Priorat or Montsant, SP 

Domestic: Santa Ynez, Paso Robles and Sonoma County, CA
International: Northern Rhone, FR 

Carmenere International: Chile


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