It’s that time of year again when we swap the ACs for big fluffy blankets and cuddle up in front of the fire. As the leaves begin to turn vibrant shades of crimson and gold, we wine drinkers also tend to swap the crisp and refreshing rosé and Sauvignon Blanc for varietals that are a bit more warming and weightier, like Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. Wine tends to be seasonal, much like food choices. I see it quite often in my experience as a wine consultant, and I am pleasantly guilty myself. There’s just something comforting about a big glass of red wine blanketed in notes of warm baking spice and sweet oak.
The seasonality of your wine drinking doesn’t need to stop with what is in your glass. The food pairing you choose to accompany your wine creates a complete experience, and some of the perfect combinations might surprise you.
It seems the moment August rolls around, we New Englanders tend to begin the hunt for all things pumpkin spice. You can’t imagine the look of delight on the faces of my clients when I teach them how to pair pumpkin bread with wine! There are quite a few fuller bodied white varietals that display beautiful baking spice notes, such as nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon. One of my favorites is Viognier. A Rhone Valley grape, the fruity yet spicy wines this grape becomes is the perfect pairing for all things pumpkin and gingerbread flavored. Imagine a nice butternut squash ravioli smothered in a cream sauce paired with the perfect fuller bodied white wine that will smooth the acidity yet allow the spice to pop – that is Viognier, a true autumn delight, and the perfect alternative to Chardonnay. In fact every Thanksgiving table should have a bottle of Viognier to dazzle the white wine lovers with a varietal not so typical, but oh so delicious.
With autumn comes the comfort foods such as beef stew and mac and cheese. These heftier dishes require a wine with a full enough body to stand up to the dish without being overwhelmed. These are the foods that shine brightly when paired with your fuller bodied Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec. But why stick with what you know? Wine is an adventure, so I suggest going a little outside the box and trying a varietal you might not be familiar with, such as a Pinotage from South Africa, or Argentina’s second-only-to-Malbec red grape, Bonarda.
I find as the seasons begin to change, I’m stuck somewhere in between the big whites and big reds, and often enjoy going to my old friend Pinot Noir. This lighter bodied red with smooth tannins, ripe red fruit, and often hints of baking spice and earth make the perfect pairing for lean cuts of meat and risotto dishes. Try a Pinot Noir from Oregon, and you’ll have an all new love and respect for the wines of the Pacific Northwest. Cheers to autumn in New England!
About the Author
CSW, WSET3, FWS, BWSEd
Missa holds various positions in the wine industry, each of which brings her incredible fulfillment. She is the EVP of Product Development at Sail to Trail WineWorks in Worcester, MA and the Director of Wine Education at VINOvations in Sharon, MA. She also teaches students of all levels of experience and interest in wine classes, lifestyle experiences, and leads wine dinners all around Massachusetts.
She is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) with the Society of Wine Educators, a certified French Wine Scholar (FWS), certified with the Wine and Spirits Trust, Level 3 Advanced (WSET), and a certified educator with Boston Wine School (BWSEd). Her unique combination of talent allows her to translate the nuances of wine for the everyday wine drinker in an accessible and fun way. Demystifying wine and removing the intimidation is her passion when sharing wine with others.