4 Regions to Reach For Autumnal Reds

As the weather changes across much of the country, so, too, does the fare on our dinner tables. Grilled foods, salads, and brightly-flavored dishes give way to stews, squash, and heartier fare. It's not quite winter grub, but we're heading in that direction. So, it makes sense that the wines we reach for also change. Following are some ideas on regions to experiment with in this shoulder season, where the reds are up to the task without being too forceful - or expensive.

Though most famous for Beaujolais Nouveau, the super young and overly celebrated plonk that gets released right before Thanksgiving every year, this sub-region of Burgundy makes a variety of styles from the gamay grape. The most broad is Beaujolais Villages, a terrific entry point where $15 will likely get you a lip-smacking wine of lighter body, nice acidity, and simple, but fresh fruit. Delving into any of the 10 cru appellations such as Lirac, Fleurie, Morgon, or Brouilly can double your spend and take you for a vinous adventure, but the Villages are perfect for fall fare. Louis Jadot and Georges Duboeuf are dependable, if not terribly interesting, so be on the lookout for smaller producers.

Montepulciano d'Abbruzzo
Not too long ago, this was a maligned wine - and not without good reason. Most of what was imported to the US was cheap crap. Today, however, there are many joyful expressions of this thoroughly Italian wine, most of which you can find for well under $20. Unlike many sangiovese-based wines, the montepulciano grape offers more overt, plump fruit framed by softer acidity. Hearty enough for beef dishes, but easy and round enough to be versatile. Masciarelli is widely available and a respectable choice. Note: Montepulciano d'Abbruzzo is in no way related to Vino Rosso di Montepulciano or Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which are sangiovese-based wines from Tuscany.

Cotes du Rhone
The Cotes du Rhone appellations are comprised of a bunch of noncontiguous areas up and down the Northern and Southern Rhone valley, neighboring some famous (and pricey) subregions such as St Joseph, Cornas, Gigondas, and, of course Chateauneuf du Pape. Like Beaujolais, the Cotes du Rhone has a generic AOC area where wines are made in bulk, and the Cotes du Rhone Villages, where more interesting character comes into the wines, which are usually blends of grenache, syrah, and mourvedre. And for even more unique wines, the next level up are the named villages themselves, of which there are around 20, including Sablet and Seguret. La Vieille Ferme is inexpensive, but getting better all the time, and other reliable names include Guigal, Famille Perrin, and anything imported by Kermit Lynch.

Itata, Chile
Sitting at the southern end of Chile's main winegrowing region, Itata enjoys the cooling effects of the Humboldt current and a mix of altitudes. Though these wines are harder to come by than those of the regions above, things are quickly changing as the quality and value from this are becomes better-known. Here, winemakers are producing soft, light, beautiful wines from grapes like cinsault, pais, pinot noir, and others. Pedro Parra is perhaps the most well-known winemaker, and his Vinista bottling is terrific. Other names to look for are Clos de Fous and Rogue Vine.