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Fall in
With the changing season comes a new crop of wine

In the wake of recent events, wine might seem to be, at best, an afterthought. It wonít make us safer, wonít rebuild any towers, wonít bring back our slain citizens.

But remember that we drink wine mainly at meals. And meals are when we, as a society, come together to converse. Think about how many conversations take place over food and wine. My personal reaction to the cataclysmic events of September 11 was to reach for two big bottles of red wine to share with good friends as we tried to make sense of everything over dinner. The wine gave us something to talk about other than fear and folly, and it made talking easier. Wine loosens the tongue ó and good wine, all the more so.

Now, even as we realize how many bigger things there are to talk about, the wines we favor are changing with the weather. During the hotter months, my tendency, and that of many readers, is to drink lighter wines ó refreshing whites, fruitier reds, things that work well chilled, or with seafood, which we eat a lot of, especially if we spend our summers close to the ocean. These wines work during the summer because when itís hot, drinking becomes as much about refreshment as about taste.

As we move into fall, though, refreshment becomes less of a concern. The nights, when we do most of our wine drinking, become chilly. Autumn begets heavier, earthier wines. We still drink whites and reds, but the flavor profile changes subtly, as flavor itself becomes more important.

As you know by now, I think of wine mainly as an accompaniment to food. And during the fall, we have different food on our plates. I eat less fish, and more game and chicken. More root vegetables, like squashes and turnips. More pastas, and heavier foods. I care less about how I will look in my bathing suit, and more about how the pinot noir is going to complement the rabbit or the cream sauce. So, as we delight in the fall ó and nowhere is autumn more celebrated than here in New England, where the foliage is such an attraction ó we can begin to reconnect with a lot of wines that we may have veered away from during the hot and humid months.

What must be remembered is that wine is not necessarily a distraction (though it can become one). Wine is part of the fabric that holds our society together. Through wine, over wine, we communicate.

Here are a number of wines that, to my taste, are ideal for fall drinking. Theyíre all available in the Boston area, but if you canít find these particular bottles, you should be able to locate comparable wines at your favorite shop, where the staff will be happy to assist your transition into autumn.

1998 " 420 Nuits " Alain Paret Saint Joseph. Earthy and lush, though rather delicate for a syrah-based blend. Tends toward the lighter red fruits, with notes of strawberry and plum, although itís not so much a burst of fruit as a pressed-fruit taste. A fine accompaniment to pork loin, funky cheeses, or even rabbit stew. A solid wine from a solid vintage ó worth finding.

1997 Martilde La Strega, la Gazza e il Pioppo Barbera. Vivacious and alive, buzzing with cheery cherry activity. Its bright fruit pops in your mouth. One of the better barberas Iíve ever tried, this will go well with pizza, tomato-based pasta sauces, or even spicy Asian noodles (like pad Thai or Shanghai noodles).

1999 Jaffurs Grenache Stolpman Family Vineyard Santa Barbara. Bright, round, bold, and tightly wound. Craig Jaffurs is one of the later Rhone Rangers, but he has rescued grenache from oblivion; itís a serious wine made here in the US. This offering, from a now-renowned vineyard near Santa Barbara, is full-bodied enough to take on rare red meats or any gamy dishes. Jaffurs has worked the fruit for all itís worth, with raspberries and red currants, and the brew should improve some as it stews in the bottle over the coming years. Still, if you must drink it now, itíll reward your impatience with its forward fruit burst.

1998 Laetitia Estate Pinot Noir Arroyo Grande. Earthy and warm, with a thick layer of fruit, including strawberries and raspberries. This wine will appreciate an hour of air before drinking. It goes great with grilled tuna (or sushi), and basic Chinese foods such as spare ribs and egg rolls (or even kung pao chicken and moo shu pork). Itís superbly balanced and fragrant; I even got hints of cinnamon on the finish. On the expensive side, but worth the dough.

2000 Domaine des Aubuisières Bernard Fouquet Vouvray. Selected and imported by savvy Peter Weygandt, this 2000 makes me excited to see what other engaging wines were produced in France during this spectacular vintage. Like many Loire Valley chenin blancs, this wine is off-dry, with a pleasant sweetness reminiscent of hard apple cider. Refreshing with shellfish (especially raw), but also with paella, spicy chicken dishes, or ham. This is as elegant and carefree as an under-$20 bottle of wine can be.

2000 Pinot Gris Willakenzie Estate Oregon. With super-high alcohol content (14.6 percent) for a pinot gris, this is one of my favorite white wines ó and one of the best Oregon pinot gris, period. Would be good any time of year, but itís great to sit on the porch, eating pretty much anything hot off the grill (hopefully something with a citrusy kick), watching the colors of the foliage deepen, while sipping this generous and approachable wine.

David Marglin can be reached at wine[a]

Issue Date: October 18 - 25, 2001

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