The French call it la rentrée—literally “the re-entry,” but figuratively a return to the business of life after summer’s folly.
Autumn always feels like that for me, less about endings than beginnings. True, I tend a garden, and the shortening days foretoken its demise, but it’s hard to be melancholy in a season so characterized by movement. The sunlight has turned gauzy against transparent trees, and beyond the air is a scrim of blue, skeined with geese and their faint, high fanfare. Robins freckle the lawn, dropping down from the Atlantic Flyway en route to the Carolinas. Warblers chip and twitter in the scrub, hunkering low, catching bugs by day, then moving up into the ceiling of night to re-enter the surging raceway.
Along the stone wall, red squirrels and chipmunks dart and gather, laying in a stash of seeds for their winter slumber. A gray squirrel scatters beechnuts, licking each nut so she will smell it later, under the snow, before burying it under the soft moss. Then she patters her slender fingers against the soil to settle the seam, before turning unsentimentally to the next seed. And the next.
I’m not so different. I’ve been filling my freezer with blanched green beans, roasted eggplant, sautéed zucchini, steamed corn, soup stock. I stockpiled bushels of onions and shallots and garlic, and after frost snaps at my garden, I’ll dig up the rest of my carrots and leeks and plant next year’s garlic, too. Then I’ll fork-turn the soil, blanket the beds with a layer of mulch, and tuck it all in at the corners.
Cooler air means a return to savory: to stew and pie, roasts and pasta. It also means a return to more substantial wines—mostly reds—that felt unwelcome during summer’s saturated heat.
Below are three good candidates made from Tempranillo, the grape called Tinto Fino in Spain’s Ribera del Duero. These were produced by Bodegas Emilio Moro, an estate first planted in 1932. The gnarled, head-trained vines of their first vineyard, Finca Resalso, still stand in testament to the durability of Tempranillo in these bony soils.
At the turn of this century, the Moro family expanded their vineyard acreage and winemaking facilities, and also opted out of the strict aging protocols stipulated for Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva wines. This gave the cellarmaster a freer hand stylistically, but the wines mostly cleave to tradition anyway, the young wine more juicy, the older wines more learned and elaborate.
All three wines have a woodsy sweetness that suggests crushed leaves, autumn fruits, darkness, earth. In short, they’re just right for harvest fare, and for a return to the serious business of the table.
2014 Bodegas Emilio Moro “Finca Resalso” Ribera del Duero
Brilliant ruby-purple with a fuchsia rim, so bright it looks as if it had been pressed from beets. A charming scent of cherries, violets, and macerated strawberries drifts over an earthy iron core, and it’s juicy and fresh-squeezed on the palate, with sharp red berries. A spicy, woodsy bass note, almost like warm pine needles, rounds out the wine. The label bears the name of the winery’s oldest vineyard, but that is just in tribute; this one hundred percent Tinto Fino was grown on five- to twelve-year-old vines, and the wine spent four months in third-use French oak. The result is a zesty, vibrant red to serve with casual fare.
13.5% abv | $15
2012 Bodegas Emilio Moro “Emilio Moro” Ribera del Duero
The body is the color of ruby velvet and deeply perfumed, with a fragrance like ripe black cherries steeped with violets, juniper, and star anise. Silky textured on the tongue but with muscular tannins and dark bramble fruits ornamented by spice and leather and tea. This varietal Tinto Fino was grown on twelve- to twenty-five-year-old vines and spent twelve months in a mix of French and American oak. It’s round, structured, and serious but not severe. Pair it with roasted meats and game, mushrooms, and aged cheeses.
14% abv | $25
2011 Bodegas Emilio Moro “Malleolus” Ribera del Duero
An ethereal fragrance of vanilla-spiced fruits mingles with cedar, dark honey, and tea-stained cherries. The vibrant, deep ruby body offers satiny tannins, mature black fruit, and a finishing snap of graphite. Made from one hundred percent Tinto Fino grown on twenty-five- to seventy-five-year-old vines. The wine spent eighteen months in new five-hundred-liter French oak and reposed in bottle even longer, rounding its texture and adding the filigree of age. Well developed and complicated now but still vivacious, with years of aging ahead. Pair it with grilled meats, roasted savory vegetables, braises, and aged cheeses.
14.5% abv | $45