We might have enjoyed an Indian summer, but there's no doubt about it, the evenings are getting chillier and darker, and, as we hurtle towards October, I'm starting to cook more autumnal 'comfort food'.
With a switch from leafy salads and light main courses, to richer, heartier dishes, comes a change in wines as well. Food and wine matching is a lot about finding a good balance, so it simply wouldn't make sense to marry the more robust meals of the autumn with crisp, delicate, summery wines. Moreover, I find that I actually want (or is that crave?) richer, more full-bodied wines at this time of year.
The youthful, refreshing whites of high summer have made way for more rounded, buttery styles in my fridge. White Riojas with some oak ageing have wonderful, richer nuances of vanilla and spice, and they will go so well with the roast chicken and smoked salmon that we will enjoy over the next few weeks.
I haven't turned my back on Rosado (rosé) of course, and still can't get enough of those lip-smacking red berry fruit flavours, but I'm matching it differently now. Out go cold prawns and lightly dressed lettuce leaves, and in comes peppery chorizo, jamon and salami with my glass of pink. Charcuterie and rosé makes a great autumn starter.
As for reds, it's away with very light, juicy, possibly lightly-chilled styles. This is exactly the time of year to turn to a fine Rioja Reserva for matching with game birds. I especially like a pheasant casserole with a mellow, complex Reserva. And the pairing is even better with bacon and mushrooms in the sauce and a heap of hot buttered mash. Decant the Rioja beforehand to add some sense of occasion, and you've got a proper feast for friends.
You could also treat guests to a majestic, mature Gran Reserva with a long-braised beef or venison casserole for another truly autumnal experience. As for younger Rioja reds, I'm still enjoying a peppery, fruity, slightly younger Crianza - try a simple hot cheesy lasagne, garlic bread and a bottle of Crianza for an easy weekday supper. That should drive away the autumn chills!