20 red wines to ring in Autumn

Written by
Vintage Cellars
February 19, 2019
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Three cheers for the onset of the cooler months, when red wines shine brightly. Dive into these reds, from lighter weighted options through to heavy-hitting drops.

When it comes to the four seasons, autumn trumps all because the cooler weather means we’re heading back into red territory and scrumptious food. Although, don’t be too hasty - summer doesn’t give up without a fight these days, as it tends to linger, encroaching well into the traditional autumn months.


That means easing into the new season with lighter weighted wines, those with lower tannins and fresh acidity. Sounds like it’s time for a tempranillo made in a youthful style with no new oak to bolster the palate. Tempranillo is delicious on a warm or cool night and even better if matched with lamb. So, make use of the barbeque while you still can, with lamb cutlets and char-grilled red peppers. It’s also delicious with chilli con carne, the spicier, the better.

Pinot noir

Did someone mention duck and pinot noir? Yes please. The wine’s acidity cuts through the richness of the bird and its tannins complement the earthy, gamy flavours. Hard to beat Peking duck and pinot noir, it’s one of the best wine and food matches. Yet vegetarians can also rejoice, as the wine works a treat with an array of vegetarian dishes, particularly eggplant, such as Japanese nasu dengaku, where the grilled vegetable is doused in an umami hit of miso.


Heading to Piedmont in Italy, its lauded grape is nebbiolo and none greater than the wines known as barbaresco and barolo, named after the regional towns. Nebbiolo morphs into a largely medium-weighted red with an abundance of tannins and acidity, so it’s not for the faint-hearted. Food is essential: think oxtail stew or rich pasta such as meat-filled ravioli.

Autumn is all about heading down a savoury path with its flavour profile. No coincidence that one of this season’s stars – wild mushrooms – pops up and is a fine match with nebbiolo, as well as pinot noir. Nebbiolo is an exquisite variety that hovers around medium-bodied, thanks to its lively acidity and distinct, fine-to-velvety tannin structure. As soon as pine mushrooms and slippery jacks start appearing in stores, make the most of the short season either by making them the hero of the dish or serving them with braised pork.

Shiraz, malbec, GSM blends

Of course, when the days do fall under the charm of an autumn chill, it’s time to bring out the richer, bigger reds. That means shiraz from McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley, or malbec, carmenere and more structured tempranillo from Rioja. There’s a density to the fruit and richness on the palate that makes these wines appealing and warming. And no need to think single-varietal wines. Enjoy the complexity of blends, including the Australian classic GSM (a combo of grenache, shiraz and mourvèdre but not necessarily in that order). Blends are the sum of their parts, the aim being to make a better, more balanced drink. As for food? It’s time for a roast rib-eye of beef with hot mustard or emu fillet with lemon myrtle.

Cabernet sauvignon

And don’t forget the regal cabernet sauvignon. While Margaret River produces more medium bodied and super-fine renditions, Coonawarra is unmistakable in its flavour profile — a mix of dried herbs, blackcurrants and assertive tannins. It is famed for its ability to age but is equally lovely in its youth. When it comes to finding a food match for cabernet sauvignon, don’t overthink it; sometimes a hamburger is the order of the day. So simply enjoy it with a glass of cabernet or any other red while admiring the autumnal colours outside, knowing winter is just around the corner.