Since Chaucer first used the word in 1374 A.D., people have been referring to this “in between” time of year as autumn. Derived from the Latin word autumnus or auctumnus, autumn is often used interchangeably with the word fall. This word came into common usage around 1545 A.D. and means “the fall of the leaf”. This is the only season with two names…and it is my favorite. I love everything about fall…the changing colors of the foliage, the smell of damp forest floor covered in leaves, the first fire in the fireplace, bright pumpkins and gourds of all shapes and sizes and the feelings of warm nostalgia that wrap around me like my favorite flannel shirt.
For wine lovers, the season brings with it the culmination of a yearlong anticipation…the grape harvest. In the Northern Hemisphere where we live, the wine harvest traditionally begins in late summer and runs through the fall, depending on what type of grape is being harvested and the location of the vineyard. My favorite merlot grapes are harvested around mid-September to mid-October, while my second favorite, cabernet sauvignon grapes, are generally harvested from the first of October through the first of November. Of course, the exact timing changes from year to year depending on the weather. Temperature and rainfall affect the sweetness of the grapes and it is up to the vineyard managers to decide when the optimum time to harvest begins.
Autumn is a wonderful time to get outdoors and experience wineries at the height of their annual activity. Picking, sorting, crushing and tasting the freshly harvested grapes is one of the most exciting times for vineyards everywhere. So this season, celebrate the changes, the cooler weather and the beginning of the new vintage of 2015.