10 Wines for Fall Foods

Fantastic wine pairings just in time for autumn


It is that time of year again, days are growing shorter, it’s still dark when we wake up, and soon enough, it’ll be night when we leave our offices each evening, too. Don’t despair. With every season comes something to celebrate. Autumn is no exception.
We’ve spent the last few months draining bottles of light, fresh Sauvignon Blanc, crisp Pinot Grigio and countless rosé wines, but with fall’s menus, it’s time to return to richer whites and lusty reds.
I’ve pulled together five of my favorite autumn recipes from our sister site Whatscook.in and paired each with both a red and a white wine that are sure to make the coming season a culinary success.

Wine in Autumn image via Shutterstock

Autumn Vegetable Ragout with Soft Polenta

I’m going to start with something simple and, not surprisingly, Italian influenced. I love polenta. In fact, I’ve made it a priority to track down the best polenta meal out there. A lot of Latin markets stock a variety of corn meals. If you are looking for one that is inexpensive but that makes great polenta, try to find La Fe, I’ve even found it occasionally at ShopRite. It’s not the ideal grind for polenta, a touch coarser than I would like, but it does a fine job with exceptional flavor.

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With the northern Italian twist of this recipe, I’ve chosen a pair of wines that capture the mountain character of the north of Italy and south of Austria yet remain crisp enough for fall.
Bright, medium-bodied and zesty, Blaufrankisch produces wines that are full of plump, dark berry fruit with lovely hints of spice. These work perfectly as a counterpoint to the earthy flavors of this dish. The acidity is key, playing off the acidity the tomatoes add to this recipe and creating a lively pairing.
Try the 2009 Weninger Blaufrankisch from Austria

In many ways, this dish is typical of something one might encounter in the north of Italy, where Pinot Bianco produces some of its finest examples. Again, acidity comes into the picture. Instead of adding a spice note to the pairing, Pinot Bianco brings a certain minerality, which serves much the same purpose, creating a counterpoint to the earthy flavors of the dish.
Try the 2011 Cantina Terlano Pinot Bianco from Italy

Roasted Pork and Autumn Vegetables

Continuing on the autumnal vegetable theme, this recipe gets even better with the addition of succulent roasted pork! The fennel in this dish is sure to add an earthy sweetness as well as a distinctly herbal note, accentuated by the addition of sage leaves.

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The slightly French take on this recipe brought me straight to France. For the red, this meant the Loire Valley in particular, where Cabernet Franc finds its grandest expression. Lighter and less tannic than Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc sports juicy acidity and an enchanting blend of red berry fruit and lightly vegetal notes, most often recalling tomato leaves for me. It would be a lovely partner for this fennel-rich dish. Cabernet Franc from the Loire also happens to be one of the great values left in the wine world, so do yourself a favor and try a few this autumn.
Try the 2010 Bernard Baudry Chinon les Granges from France
Another option is to use the white wine called for in the recipe, which is always a reliable pairing option. Still, you have to decide which wine to use. Alsace Pinot Gris is rich and has a nice spice note that should play off the flavors of this dish very well.
Try the 2005 Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve Personelle from France

Autumn Squash Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter Sauce

Back to Italy we go with what might be one of the most quintessential autumnal dishes of the country. Squash ravioli with sage brown butter sauce has become a staple of Italian restaurants everywhere, primarily because it’s inexpensive to make and people love it. With this recipe, which uses wonton wrappers instead of fresh pasta, it’s also fast and easy to make at home!

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With the dish’s interplay of sweet and salty flavors, you might want to opt for a little hint of sweetness in your wine. In Emilia-Romagna, the home of this dish, that’s just what people do. A just off dry sparkling Lambrusco would be right at home sharing a table with this recipe. It’s a surprising choice perhaps, but it works! Give it a try.
Try Cleto Chiarlo Lambrusco Enrico Cialdini from Italy
The vanilla accent in this recipe is not particularly Italian. In fact, if left to my druthers, I just might leave it out, but keeping the vanilla does open the door to pairing this recipe with many oak aged wines. Consider something like an earthy, fruity, vanilla- and coconut-scented, barrel-aged white Rioja here. The tropical note will play beautifully off the sweetness of the squash and chestnuts and the vanilla will act as a thread tying everything together.
Try the 2011 Muga Rioja Blanco from Spain

Braised Chicken Thighs with Autumn Vegetables

Another simple autumn vegetable and meat dish, this one with meaty chicken thighs playing the featured role. This blend of Brussels sprouts, parsnips and carrots makes for a slightly sweet dish with a complex yet subtle herbal flavor. You don’t want to pair this with anything too intense, so opt instead for something subtle and complex. I have to admit that a specific wine popped to mind here.

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Mas Daumas Gassac Blanc is just the right wine, made from a blend of Viognier, Chardonnay, Petit Manseng, Chenin Blanc and a handful of other grapes. It would sing with this dish, but it’s neither easy to find nor inexpensive, and I wouldn’t use it to cook with. As a back up, I’ll make a more accessible recommendation for a wine with nearly as crazy a blend: Chardonnay, Semillon, Gewurztraminer, Orange Muscat, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc.
Try the 2010 Murrietta’s Well The Whip from California
For a red wine pairing, you want something that is simple enough to not overpower the flavors of the dish and fruity enough to add a counterpoint to the sweetly herbal flavors of the cooked carrots and parsnips. I’d opt for something from Sicily, a nice Cerasuolo di Vittoria that blends the lively texture of Frappato with the black cherry punch of Nero d’Avola.
Try the 2008 Valle dell’Acate Cerasuolo di Vittoria from Italy

Lasagna with Fall Vegetables, Gruyere and Sage Bechamel

It looks like I’m stuck in Italy, though this is sort of a pan-European dish with the Gruyere from France. Not buying it? That’s okay, because this is everyone’s type of dish. Fancy mac and cheese with mushrooms in it, what could be better? I would get rid of the sweet potato here and probably just add more mushrooms, which makes this the killer dish for Nebbiolo. You know I’ve been waiting months to say that!

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Bring on the Barbaresco and Barolo, and an aged bottle would be ideal for this recipe. Of course, they don’t come cheap, at least not the really profound wines, but there are always exceptions. Take the Produttori del Barbaresco, for example. This is one of the great values in Piedmont and even their base Barbaresco bottling, known colloquially as “the Torre bottling” after the tower on the label, ages spectacularly well.
Try the 2005 Produttori Del Barbaresco Barbaresco from Italy
If you prefer a white wine with your macaroni and cheese, not an entirely unwarranted preference, how about some Pecorino? No, not the cheese. Pecorino is another Italian grape that produces slightly nutty wine with a moderately full and gently creamy mouthfeel. A perfect complementary pairing for this recipe.
Try the 2011 Saladini Pilastri Pecorino from Italy

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  • Snooth User: ChristophG
    572812 17

    Dear Gregory, just one correction: Gruyere cheese comes from Switzerland (french speaking part), and not from France! More precisely from the Swiss region of Gruyere. It's an "AOC" product (appellation d'origine controlée), Gruyere cheese underlies very strict production rules and only comes from small, defined areas in the alps and Jura mountains (still Switzerland). The name is also protected. And: If you find, try out "Etivaz" cheese, from the same geographical region but only made from milk of cows spending their summer in the high meadows located in the alps. Besides I enjoy your blog and share your preferences for wine from Piemonte and Pinot Noir from Burgundy, areas I'm lucky to have nearby,living in Geneva, Switzerland. CinCin! Christoph Gisler

    Oct 30, 2012 at 6:08 AM

  • delicious

    Aug 20, 2013 at 4:43 AM

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