With summer’s swelter behind us and autumn’s nip still to come, we are in that sweet spot where flip flop-wearing days rest between sweater-donning mornings and nights. This bridge between seasons begs for fleshy white wines paired with the last of summer’s culinary splendors and the first of fall’s bountiful harvest.
Late summer tomatoes are rich and succulent and there is no better match for them than a wine from the Italian region that grows the most famous tomatoes. Campania’s San Marzano tomatoes and its ancient, indigenous grape varietal, Falanghina, are a match made in, well, Italy. Nicknamed the “Garden of Eden,” Campania is blessed with copious sunshine, marine breezes, and soils rich with volcanic ash (Mount Vesuvius did some good). It all culminates in a wine with tantalizing acidity and lemony lusciousness. Grill a pizza crust and top it with a scattering of tomatoes in all different sizes, shapes, and colors, chunks of burrata (imagine a ball of fresh mozzarella injected with cream), the last fragrant leaves of basil, sea salt and a generous glug of good olive oil. Eat, drink, moan, repeat.
When fresh figs arrive at the City Market, I buy obscene amounts and then gorge myself with reckless abandon. For the few weeks that follow, my life revolves around figs and how I can improve on their already exquisite beauty. My winner this fig season? Swaddle them in prosciutto, lightly sauté them until the prosciutto crisps and the figs warm, nestle them on a bed of peppery baby arugula, and add nothing but a drizzle of good olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and a glass of Keswick Vineyard’s Verdejo. Exotic and seductive, this local take on one of Spain’s most aromatic varietals brings out the figs’ musky sweetness and delicate acidity.
Four ways to celebrate the Indian Summer:
Alain Gautheron Chablis Premier Cru Les Fourneaux 2008. Tastings of Charlottesville. $26.95
Keswick Verdejo 2009. Keswick Vineyards. $17.95
Grotta del Sole Falanghina 2009. Whole Foods Market. $14.99
Cono Sur Viognier 2009. Wine Warehouse. $10.99
Oysters, love them or hate them, are juicy and plump come October and so perfectly paired with the wines from Chablis that many proffer you haven’t lived until you try this combination. (I relished this pairing once and then four hours later wished myself dead when I discovered that I was, most unfortunately, allergic to the bivalves.) Made from 100 percent Chardonnay grapes in the northernmost reaches of Burgundy, France, Chablis differs from Chardonnay grown in other regions because of its unique terroir on the Kimmeridgian chain—a huge Jurassic deposit of chalky marl and limestone covered with fossilized seashells. Chablis undergoes no malolactic fermentation (the process that converts sharp-tasting malic acid into buttery-tasting lactic acid) and touches no oak in its aging process, so these marine elements come through crystal clear—hence the natural pairing with oysters.
Feeling like a Top Chef? Mash roasted butternut squash and apples with salt, pepper, and some mascarpone until smooth and spoon it onto sheets of fresh pasta (or use wonton wrappers!) for ravioli. Boil just until tender and toss them in browned butter with some wilted chard and toasted hazelnuts. A dish that unites sweet, salty, earthy, bitter and nutty needs a wine brimming with ripe tropical fruits like Viognier, which grants you density and structure alongside persistent acidity.
We’ll be cozying up with our fuzzy slippers and red wine before we know it, so until then, enjoy these autumn days with the warmth of the summer sun on your plate and in your glass.