Cooler weather often turns drinkers away from the light, crisp and refreshing category towards wines of more substance. While most reds fit that bill, plenty of white wines do, too. In fact, consumers have begun realizing the breadth of styles, grapes, and regions that produce whites for year-round consumption. Plus, as diets have begun changing to incorporate more vegetables and fish while reducing red meat consumption, white wine increases in its importance at the dinner table.

Here are three regions for making an easy transition into fall drinking.

White Bordeaux

While red wine has dominated production in Bordeaux over the last thirty years, once upon a time, more white grapes were cultivated. A global rise in demand for red fueled in part by emerging markets (think China), and in part by writers like Robert Parker, led to the replanting of red grapevines. But Bordeaux still makes one of the world’s most iconic white blends from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon emulated everywhere from New Zealand to California. And while light and lively summer bottlings are an important part of the category, age-worthy examples can be had from the same gravel soils.

The finest white Bordeaux (for many, measured by critics’ scores and price tags), hail from Graves and Pessac-Léognan. Pessac wines frequently see oak aging, even fermentation, which imparts the texture and structure that allows the wine to evolve in the bottle beneficially. Producers like Château Haut-Brion, Château Pape Clément, Château Carbonnieux are prominent names for good reason – they make wonderful examples.

Wines to find:

Château Pape Clément Blanc, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, 2014, $130

Château Carbonnieux Blanc, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, 2014, $40


Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

By now, the year-round appeal of California Chardonnay is common knowledge. But some American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) deliver styles suitable for different seasons of the year. While most consumers are familiar with the fat, ripe Chard that taste like vanilla, butterscotch, and sunshine, the leaner, focused wines of the cooler Sonoma Coast are only now starting to enjoy a broader audience.

Of course, when discussing wine profiles from this largest AVA in California, encompassing over 500,000 acres across 750 square miles from Mendocino in the north to Marin County in the south, one needs to be precise about where, exactly, the grapes grow. Specifically, does the vineyard endure the cool climate and foggy, windy weather patterns characteristic of a Pacific Coast site?

Without going in-depth on coastal geography, growers in the “true” Sonoma Coast typically reap less quantity, rather to be rewarded with the qualities of purity, elegance, and structure with flavors in the citrus, stone fruit, and mineral camp. Not unlike Burgundy’s Côte d’Or, Cali winemakers working with grapes from this area tend to have a similar touch with their wines. And Burgundy doesn’t go out of style with the season.

Wines to find:

Kutch, Sonoma Coast, California, 2015 $42

Peay, Sonoma Coast, California, 2015, $45

 

Rhône Valley Whites

The Rhône Valley is another region that receives far greater recognition for its reds than its whites. Most consumers know the smoky, black-pepper-spiced Syrah of the North (e.g., Cote-Rotie) or the dense, chewy red blends made with Grenache and Mourvèdre from the south (e.g., Châteauneuf-du-Pape.) But the white grapes of the Rhône make world-class wines with a textural richness that pairs well with fall foods.  

Perfumed with flowers, apricots, and almonds, viscous Viognier is the queen of the North. In Condrieu, the grape is so prized; producers can only use the appellation to bottle it as a single-varietal. It’s one of the world’s only luxury wines that (generally) should be consumed in its youth due to low acidity.

Across the river in Hermitage, while still in the north of the valley, white grapes Marsanne and Roussanne rule. Together they take on a yellow hue and produce round, dry whites redolent of linden, honey, hazelnut, and peach. These are also the dominant grapes in the Southern Rhone, but other varieties like Bourboulenc, Picpoul, and Clairette, along with Viognier, may fill out the blend.

Wines to find:

E. Guigal, Condrieu, France, 2015, $40.

Château de Beaucastel Blanc, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France, 2014, $120