Autumn reinstates hearty dishes; it invites dinner parties and offers us holidays, religious and secular. Our subliminal excitement in revisiting September's pleasures may be partly rooted in back-to-school days, when new pencils' wood-and-graphite aromas (and, for chewers, flavors) nurtured our hunger to learn.
September's first-sipped Cabernet Sauvignon, especially from Bordeaux, with its pencil-box characteristics, connects yesterday to today. The first Champagne "pop!" stirs appetites, culinary and social. Our first off-dry Mosel Riesling's intricate interplay of fruit, sweetness, and refreshing acidity brings a smile -- and soon a request for another full glass. Our first matured Sauternes, all textural velvet and golden color, reminds us comfortingly that, as Edgar says in King Lear, "ripeness is all."
The crisp crunch of leaves underfoot has a near-counterpart in the crackling acidity of cremant d'Alsace, an undervalued sparkling wine that's as casual as Saturday's tailgate picnic. Pigskins aside, cremant was born for cool-weather choucroute garni pig-outs.
Sauvignon Blanc comes into play with fall salads of, say, late lettuce sprinkled with pumpkin seeds, dried cherries, and candied pumpkin. It can enliven side dishes involving beans, broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, and apples.
Beaujolais fills the bill succulently for hearty fare -- slowly braised meats like short ribs, hanger steak, prime rib roast, and rack of lamb -- and for such roasted vegetables as red potatoes, butternut squash, carrots, parsnips, and turnips.
Vintage port immunizes heart and mind against gray skies and slanting rain, as London knows. Think of it as liquefied mittens.
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Howard G. Goldberg, former senior editor of the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, where he worked 34 years, writes that newspaper's "Wine Under $20" and "Long Island Vines" features, which appear on Sundays. He is American auction correspondent of Decanter magazine in London and East Coast correspondent of decanter.com, and a columnist for Wine News, a bimonthly magazine published in Coral Gables, Florida.
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