Perfect pairings for fall favorites


There’s a chill in the air. And the lighter, brighter foods of summer – salads, summer veggies, grilled chicken – are giving way to the heavier and more intense foods of fall – earthy vegetables, soups and stews, roasts and braises. You might even be starting to crave Thanksgiving dinner.

The wines that go best with fall foods will be heavier and more intense, too. Lighter whites like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio step aside for Chardonnay and reds. Think about it – doesn’t a glass of Pinot Noir sound nice right about now?

Here, then, are some favorite fall foods and the wines to enjoy with them.


FOOD: Mushrooms
WINE: Both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have enough heft to work with the meatiness of mushrooms, and also often have mushroomy nuances themselves. (For a perfect pairing with Pinot Noir, try my Mushroom Sherry Soup.) If your dish has actual meat as well – as in beef stroganoff – you could go for something heavier, like Merlot.

FOOD: Roast chicken
WINE: You can’t get much more classic than roast chicken and Chardonnay. For a change of pace, try Viognier or even Pinot Noir

FOOD: Game day chili
WINE: A fruity red, like Zinfandel or Syrah, plays well with chili’s intensity, and adding a splash of wine to your chili can help seal the deal. Watch out for anything with too much alcohol – if your chili is spicy, a high alcohol wine can exacerbate the burn.

FOOD: Thanksgiving dinner
WINE: The flavors here are all over the map – the turkey is savory, the cranberry sauce is sweet, the stuffing is earthy, the green beans are vernal. Relatively middle-of-the-road Pinot Noir is big enough to handle the gamut but light enough to work with poultry. Gewürztraminer is a good bet if there are a lot of sweeter dishes in the meal.

FOOD: Good old-fashioned pot roast
WINE: With big, beefy food, you need similarly big, beefy wine – like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Syrah. Make the combo really sing by adding a little soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, or Dijon mustard to the braising liquid.

I originally wrote this piece for Portland’s Mix magazine – it appears in their current (October) issue.

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