Like white shoes, white pants and hats, white wines can go back on the shelf until the days lengthen and warm up.
Sure, there will be occasions for a crisp Chardonnay, perhaps with a course or two of a holiday meal, and there are many other whites that are perfect matches with seafood, but generally, it’s time to start thinking about the reds and preparing for winter.
You could slip into it gradually, to avoid shocking the system too severely, with something like a rose. That sort of approach might have been okay a couple of weeks ago, but now that you can see your breath in the air and shorts no longer work for even the staunchest winter deniers, you’re better off just reaching for lighter bodied reds.
The shift doesn’t have to be dramatic. Hold off on the cabs, the Australian Shiraz, the Portuguese reds. Those are best when you’re fully embracing the cold, huddled around the fire, sheltered from the howling horizontal snow and enjoying a steamy, rich bowl of soup or stew.
Now is the time for a nice light red wine that still has a touch of summer about it — well, at least it’s from the south of France — and red Cotes du Rhone is excellent this time of year. It’s a versatile wine that is fine for sipping with appetizers, and it pairs with almost any food.
One of the best Cotes du Rhone values I’ve tasted recently is Parallele 45, a balanced blend of 60 percent Grenache and 40 percent Syrah.
The area around the 45th north parallel is known as one of the best wine regions in the world. The actual line runs through the village of Pont de l’Isere about a mile and a half from the cellars of Maison Paul Jaboulet Aine, the family that has been producing the wine and using the name since the 1950s. (As a point of reference, the 45th north parallel also runs through northern New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.)
The Jaboulet family has a long history in the wine business — a couple of centuries — and has long been known for the high quality of the wines it produces. However, in 2006, French real estate developer Jean-Jacques Frey purchased the Jaboulet company, which had aging infrastructure and a portfolio of wines that had lost their cache. Under the direction of his daughter, winemaker and proprietor Caroline Frey, the reputation of the wines has been restored. A few years ago, the Freys built a new winery with the latest technology, including robots to stack the wine cases.
In the vineyard, the Freys use management and production methods that have earned them recognition for respecting the environment and practicing sustainable farming, the winemaker’s website says.
Parallele 45 is made from grapes on vines that have been around for 25 years. Generally, older vines don’t produce a lot of grapes, which allows the fruit to develop intense flavors. That comes through, particularly with the red wine. The juice is fermented slowly on the skins and then aged in stainless steel tanks. The result is a wine with a deep but bright color, lots of flavor, and well-balanced tannins.
The technology and the smart vineyard practices allow the Freys to produce a good wine at bargain prices. Although the highest price that I’ve seen in New England is $14.99, the red, white and rose wines in the Parallele 45 line frequently are on sale for less than $10.
Parallele 45 red is ready to drink now, but it can be stored for up to five years, so if you find it on sale, it might be worth investing in some to save for the future.
During the next month or so, before the snow starts to fly, it’s still warm enough to grill meat, poultry, and vegetables outside, and this is an excellent wine to have with that fare.
The winemakers suggest serving Parallele 45 red at a temperature of about 65 degrees, just a touch warmer than the days we’ve been having lately. The wine is widely distributed and should be easy to find. If not, ask your wine seller to order it.•
Suggestions for wines in the $10 range are always appreciated.
Warren Johnston can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3216.