Ah….September. Sometimes the best of all months: warm golden days, cooler evenings, autumn in the air. For me this means the first game of the year, oysters back in season, an abundance of late summer vegetables, fruits and berries, all whetting the appetite and stimulating the taste buds after all those grills and salads. But what wines to choose for such culinary delights?
If you are lucky enough to get an early season grouse, you will need a special wine to match: many would choose a fine burgundy, but you will sometimes find better value with a New World pinot, such as the brilliantly unexpected Canadian Meyer Family Vineyards Okanagan Valley Pinot Noir (Marksandspencer.com, £20) from British Colombia: rich, succulent and enticing, with fresh cherry and other red fruit flavours and a long finish; also fantastic with grilled tuna or salmon.
Also highly prized and back in season are oysters and again, since you are probably paying premium prices, why not seek out a special wine? Loire whites are the obvious choice for their freshness and minerality to match the saline-and-lemon hit of an oyster; there are many to chose from, but why not try the Goulaine Vieilles Vignes, Bonnet-Huteau 2013 (Tanners-wines.co.uk, £14.95)? This is somewhat weightier than many other Loire whites, with concentrated citrus flavours than linger on the palate, making it ideal for all shellfish.
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After splashing out on grouse and oysters, what foods and wines are not going to break the bank at this time of year? Gardeners and allotment holders may have a glut of tomatoes, courgettes, aubergines and sweet peppers, providing many recipe possibilities. If it is one of the countless Mediterranean ratatouille style dishes (including gazpacho), you really need an uncomplicated, easy drinking robust red such as this Portuguese wine from Alentejo, Esporao Monte Velho Tinto 2016 (Winesociety.com, £7.75; thedrinkshop.com, £8.74 for a 2013 bottle). Made from a blend of their indigenous grapes such as touriga nacional, spiced up with a little syrah, it’s ideal for most tomato-based dishes, in fact.
If it’s all about the courgettes and you are spiralised out, make a soup with mint and chives (chilled or hot) and match it with a vibrant white without too much acidity – the excellent Puklavec & Friends Furmint 2015 (Waitrose.com, £9.99), from up-and-coming Slovenia, has lots of floral and herbal notes which match most summer green vegetables, underpinned with lemon and grapefruit flavours and plenty of body.
Finally, this time of year joyously straddles both the late-summer berry feast as well as the blackberries, plums, apples and pears of early autumn. The choice is endless: summer or autumn pudding, tarte tatin, fruit crumbles… for all of these, a dessert wine beckons. Keep the rich and luscious, high-alcohol Sauternes and the like for cooler months and try the gorgeously moreish Ned Noble Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Majestic.co.uk, £11.99 for 37.5 cl). At only 10% ABV this is a lovely yellow colour reminiscent of sun-burnished hay fields, tasting intensely fragrant and sweet with a mix of exotic fruits that include melon, citrus and apricot, but delivering a clean and fresh finish on the palate. All the way from New Zealand – but somehow the flavours and scent of September in a glass.