Impress yourself and your friends with these tasty ideas.
There's synergy between food and wine. Take a sip of Chardonnay, and the experience is going to be pleasant, sure. But pair that pour with lobster, and you've got an explosion of the senses. It's because your taste buds adapt. When you chew on food, your perception of things like sweetness, saltiness, and acidity shift, creating an altered palette to receive that next taste of wine in new and exciting ways. There's definitely some science going on there, but we're not here to talk about science—we're here to make sure you don't have to utter the word "Takeout?" this fall.
Tapping industry experts like sommeliers, winemakers, and wine educators, we gathered 23 mouthwatering food and wine pairings for you to craft at home throughout the fall season. There are a few classics in the mix, plus a few out-of-the-box ideas, too. No rules, just really enjoyable pairings to help you slow down and enjoy the finer things in life.
Syrah + Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)
Crescere Wines proprietor Elena Reynoso and her team reach for a bottle of Syrah after working long hours picking fruit for fall harvest. "I find great Syrah to be magical—dark berry, intriguing spice, rich and ripe, earthy and mysterious," she says. Her food pairing of choice for the season is char siu. "The Asian spice, smokiness, and umami notes mirror and bring out those notes in our Estate Syrah."
Sauvignon Blanc + Pork Loin
This white wine is well known for its crisp acidity, making it a versatile pairing just about any time of year. "Originating in the Loire Valley of France, Sauvignon Blanc…is an ideal wine for autumn as we transition from light summer fare to heartier fall meals," La Crema chef Tracey Shepos Cenami says. Right now, she's craving pork loin. "While many think of Pinot Noir as the go-to pairing for pork, the signature acidity of Sauvignon Blanc balances the fattiness of the pork, and the herbs in this dish harmonize with the zesty nature of the wine."
Pinot Noir + Spaghetti with Mushroom Bolognese
If you're ever in Napa Valley, swing by Tank Garage Winery for a tasting in their restored 1930s-era gas station and garage—and don't miss the 2019 Pinot Noir. "As a lighter- to medium-body red with full versatility, this wine is lovely as the temperature starts to transition," Tank Garage winery cellar lead Christie Basinas says. "I want this wine paired alongside spaghetti with mushroom Bolognese as a vegan option. Driven by bright, tart cherries and a savory herbal profile, this dish really allows the wine to lean into those earthy notes."
Cabernet Sauvignon + Pot Roast
For a low-effort, high-impact fall dish, Jaclyn Misch suggests pot roast. The wine educator, media personality, and freelance writer is already reaching for her Dutch oven. "Since a pot roast is straightforward (seasoned with mainly salt, pepper, rosemary, and thyme), it's a perfect match for a complex, star-of-the-show Cabernet Sauvignon–dominated blend," she says. Her pick? Realm Cellars' The Bard from Napa Valley, which shows notes of red and black fruits and is savory, spicy, and earthy. "It's bold, so it needs a hearty dish to play the understudy without stealing the show. Plus, a pot roast is easy to make so you'll have more time to enjoy the wine."
Clairette Blanche + Butternut Squash Bisque
If you haven't tasted Clairette Blanche before, Barton Family Wines winemaker Brad Ely says it's the perfect fall white wine—particularly for drinking with a butternut squash bisque. "It has a full body and wonderful spice like cardamom and ground ginger that pair beautifully with the flavor profile of a butternut squash bisque with its nutmeg and fresh black pepper," he says. "Don't forget to take advantage of the fact that butternut squash is at its peak in early fall."
Aglianico + Marinated Shrimp
Aglianico is a black grape from Campania, and Giornata founder and winemaker Brian Terrizzi notes that it's a good match with tomato-based sauce and can also handle spice. His fall dish of choice: shrimp marinated in spicy 'Nduja sautéed with garlic and sun gold tomatoes served over pasta. "I made this dish with our Etto pasta, and it's a great pairing for Aglianico," he says. "Italy's Amalfi Coast features a variety of seafood pasta, and when tomato and spice are involved, Aglianico holds up well."
Cabernet Sauvignon + Steak Frites
Nostalgia is a potent ingredient for cuisine. "My grandmother was an incredible woman but a lousy cook. Her steak frites, though, were glorious," Daniel Daou says. "We enjoyed them every time we were together, and they've left a lifelong impression on me." This fall, the proprietor and winemaker at DAOU Family Estates (who spent much of his upbringing in France) is bringing back his gran's signature dish and pairing it with Cabernet Sauvignon. "This pairing is reminiscent of family gatherings, crisp autumn evenings in Paris, and the comfort of the season," he says.
Sauvignon Blanc + Snapper and Lentils
Freshly cooked fish is a perennially tasty dish, and for winemaker Jules Taylor, serving it with warm lentils is a great way to translate this favorite to fall. "My pairing is crispy skin snapper fillet with warm Puy lentils and an herby lemon sauce," she says. "I'll team it with Sauvignon Blanc for a perfect trans-seasonal food and wine pairing. The bright, zesty citrus flavors of summer take on a heartier appeal when paired with the texture of the lentils."
Pinot Noir + Tuna
Pinot Noir is among the most food-friendly wines, and Matias Rios, the director of winemaking at Cono Sur Vineyards, is sipping it alongside fish this fall. "Light-to-medium-bodied wines with low or soft tannins pair well with lighter, flakier fish," he says. "Pinot Noir's earthy, red fruit flavors are also perfect with roasted root vegetables that are often on the table in fall—mushrooms and eggplant, too."
Nebbiolo + Tagliatelle
Is there anything cozier than pasta and red wine in the fall? Vonda Freeman, sommelier at Indaco in Charleston, recommends a Nebbiolo and black pepper tagliatelle pairing. "Nebbiolo can be a very value-friendly option that shows the full complexity of the Piedmont region in northwest Italy," she says. "They pair well with earthy flavors and hearty foods like butter sauces and truffles, which is perfect for the transitional season into autumn." You can expect earthiness and a floral rose quality with Nebbiolo, she adds. "While it's paler in color (the skin on the grapes is rather thin,) the tannin structure is medium to high, which is what you want when pairing with rich foods."
Vintage Champagne + Beef Agnolotti
You know by now that Champagne isn't just for toasts; it's a food-friendly wine, too. "By its nature, vintage brut Champagne is the perfect accompaniment to robust, spicy foods and smoky, roasted flavors," Cristian Rimoldi says. The export manager for Champagne Salon and Champagne Delamotte suggests the latter's 2014 Blanc de Blancs with beef agnolotti and Parmigiano-Reggiano for an explosion of savory umami flavors. "The freshness of the palate, mouth-watering minerality, supple fruit, and notes of brioche that show on the dreamy finish are an epicurean's delight."
Cabernet Sauvignon + Baby Portobello Risotto
A big, bold wine like Cabernet Sauvignon is ideal for autumn cuisine. "It's a good match for hearty, cool-weather dishes," Medlock Ames winemaker Ames Morison says. Their 2018 Cab has a profile of ripe berries, cigar box, chocolate-covered strawberries, and blue fruits. "The Bell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon's balanced acidity pairs perfectly with a comforting vegetarian dish like umami-rich shiitake and baby portobello risotto."
Cabernet Sauvignon + Birria Beef Tacos
If you ask Marcus Notaro, a cool fall night is best accompanied by dishes with depth and texture. He's the winemaker at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, the winery with the winning red in the historic 1976 Judgment of Paris blind tasting organized by Steven Spurrier. "Birria tacos are filled with beef that's been slowly braised with garlic, chilies, and other spices. The tortillas are tossed on the griddle with a bit of the fat from the slow-braised meat until crispy," he explains. "The depth of flavor from the tacos is a nice accompaniment to our S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon as it brings out the violet and dark fruit flavors in the wine."
Sparkling Wine + Gourmet Pizza
Listen to the Italians: Pizza and wine always wins. "In Italy we enjoy gourmet pizza and sparkling wine year round," Lunelli Group PR and communications director Camilla Lunelli says. "As autumn begins, pizza is an excellent way to use a bounteous late summer harvest of tomatoes and seasonal delicacies, like mushrooms." Her wine pairing? "I love traditional-method sparkling from my home region of Trentino. The sparkling wines of this area, called Trentodoc, offer complexity and a taste profile that beautifully marries the flavors of tangy tomato, creamy mozzarella, and fragrant basil."
Bordeaux Right Bank + Sea Bass
If you're familiar with France's iconic Bordeaux wine region, you'll know Saint-Émilion AOC on the right bank is established for its Merlot-dominant red blends. Nicolas Seillan is a seventh-generation vigneron and the general manager of Château Lassègue. "[My wife, Christina, and I] suggest our Saint-Émilion Grand Cru with a grilled sea bass and a side of oven-roasted chanterelle mushrooms," he says. Though most people think of pairing a red Bordeaux with meat, he notes a hearty fish is also excellent. "And in a way, Saint-Émilion with fish is going back to our roots, as the region was actually once covered by an ancient shallow sea," he shares. "The limestone with fossilized shellfish that was left behind when the sea retreated gives freshness to our wines sourced from the limestone and clay hillsides."
Malbec + Beef Stew
Everyone should have a favorite fall wine—wine expert and Vino Concierge owner Lydia Richards suggests Malbec. "The fruit-forward nature and spiciness of the wine, along with its low tannins and medium-full body, begs to be paired with rich, flavorful foods," she says. "One of my favorite Malbecs at the moment comes from the Pedernal Valley in San Juan, Argentina: Pyros Wines. Try it with Ropa Vieja, the Cuban version of the typical beef stew."
Rioja Reserve + Lamb
"Tempranillo is one of the cornerstones of Spanish Rioja wines," Marques de Riscal U.S. brand ambassador Jose Luis Muguiro Jr. says. "It's a big wine with high tannins that pairs well with heartier fall dishes." There are four main styles of Rioja—Joven, Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva—and this autumn, he nods toward a Reserva paired with lamb. "The balanced acidity and tannins make it a perfect match," he notes. "Our Reserva is a blend of Tempranillo and Graciano that is aged 24 months in American oak, giving it a hint of the long cask aging with ripe, concentrated fruit aromas."
Frappato + Spicy Dishes
Venture to the island of Sicily, and you'll discover one of the most versatile grapes in the world: Frappato. "It produces wines that are fresh and fruity with subtle yet present tannins," Duca di Salaparuta consulting winemaker Barbara Tamburini says. "In Sicily it's traditionally paired with seafood or game, very much like Gamay is in France. The deep and explosive red and blueberry flavors also pair well with poultry or more exotic spicy dishes, like Asian or North African cuisines." She recommends serving it with a slight chill. "I like to think of it as fall in a glass—fresh and flavorful without the harsh tannins of strong winter reds."
Pinot Noir + Spanish-Style Chicken
It's all about warm, comforting flavors when it comes to autumn, and Kevin Patterson, the tasting salon manager at Gary Farrell Winery in the Russian River Valley, has an especially cozy pairing idea. "I like our 2017 Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir paired with a Spanish-style chicken and olives with chargrilled vegetables," he says. "The smokiness of the grilled meat and veggies is complemented by the dark berry and vanilla tones in the wine, while the savory olives match nicely with the stem tannins from whole-cluster fermentation used for this Pinot Noir."
Bordeaux Left Bank + BBQ
If the sound of white pepper smokiness, fresh tobacco leaves, a well-seasoned cigar box, and woodsy cedar sounds like something you could get down with this fall, consider 2015 Château de Côme, a red Left Bank Bordeaux blend. "It's not too heavy but has just enough weight and flavor to stand tall next to many of the fresh-off-the-grill favorites," VIVANT wine advisor Jordan Lynn Traylor says. A few strong choices include grilled or smoked meat briskets, grilled ribeye, and smoked pork butt. "Sear the perfect char into a juicy steak or nibble the 'bark' from brisket alongside this 50-percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 50-percent Merlot blend, and all will be right in the world."
Skin Contact Chinuri + Pasta with Broccoli Rabe
If you're aboard the orange wine bandwagon, Tannat Market & Tavern's wine director, Sarah Goler, has a fall pairing just for you: skin contact Georgian Chinuri and pasta with broccoli rabe, garlic, and pepperoncini-infused olive oil. "Chinuri is a white grape that is aged in contact with the skins and creates a wine with aromatics of honey, apricots, and toffee, but is also dry with tannic structure," she says. "That, plus dried fruit notes, will mitigate the spice from the peperoncino, and the acidity will bring out the freshness of the broccoli rabe and taper the bitterness."
Pinot Noir + Salmon and Mushroom Risotto
There's no place quite like the northwest United States when it comes to food and wine. "We are spoiled with so many amazing ingredients to work with in the kitchen and, of course, Oregon Pinot Noir to pair them with," Alexana Estate Vineyards & Winery winemaker Bryan Weil says. This year he's cooking up pan-seared northwest salmon and wild mushroom risotto. "The weather here in Oregon starts to cool down at this time of year, so having a fresh and delicious meal like salmon and mushrooms with Pinot Noir really hits the spot."
Merlot + Flat Iron Steak with Blue Cheese Butter
When the mood strikes, a steak paired with red wine can be the perfect end to a long week. "Merlot has a friendly, inviting comfort that you can't replace with other reds this time of year," Chateau Ste. Michelle vice president Katie Nelson says. This season she suggests sipping it with a grilled flat iron steak with blue cheese butter. "The the soft, supple, and fruity qualities in Merlot complement the simple pleasure of creamy blue cheese."
Photo: Courtesy of Instagram/@crescerewines
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