Come fall, certain beverages tend to get all the press (we’re looking at you, pumpkin spice latte!), but we happen to think there’s another beverage that adapts just as well to the autumn weather: a serious glass of wine. After all, what could be better than a plate of coq au vin blanc with a glass of white Burgundy, or baked ziti with a bottle of Sangiovese?
For help in the food and wine pairings department, we asked Christie Dufault, sommelier and Associate Professor of Wine and Beverages at the Culinary Institute of America, for some of her fall wine and food recommendations. For your next comfort food-filled dinner, get ready to toss aside that frozen bottle of rosé in favor of Gamay, Syrah and more.
Chicken Piccata: Friuli
While a dish like chicken piccata would pair nicely with white wine varieties like Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay, Christie recommends Friuli, a robust and reasonably acidic white wine from northern Italy, which is a match for many chicken dishes. “In Friuli they have a grape called Friulano. It’s kind of become the darling of the wine industry for people who want to know about the next thing, and it’s very popular among sommeliers and chefs,” she says. “It’s taking over for Chardonnay; it’s not a wimpy, light wine, and it’s incredibly flavorful.” Because the medium- to full-flavored white wine grows in a cool climate, it has a pleasant level of acidity, which allows it to cut through rich chicken dishes such as fried chicken and chicken piccata.
Pan-Roasted Porterhouse Steak: Washington Syrah
“Most people just get a Cab or a Bordeaux blend, but my super favorite pairing is Syrah with steak,” she says, adding, “My real favorite right now is from Walla Walla, Washington—Washington is where it’s really at with Syrah. There are a lot of small producers. Syrah has a peppery, smoky, brambly flavor that goes well with good meats.”
Spaghetti with Meatballs: Sangiovese
“It’s hard to improve upon the classic choice, Sangiovese, an earthy, savory red that pairs perfectly with tomato sauces,” says Christie. “One of the reasons it’s hard to improve upon is that it has this tomato-like smell, which makes it the perfect pairing for tomato sauces.” The dry, earthy and savory red wine is a natural complement to all the umami present in spaghetti and meatballs. She adds: “This is a classic [example] of ‘what grows together goes together.'” Look for great examples of Sangiovese on the market from both Italy and California.
Pasta alla Norma: Vermentino or Gamay
Pasta alla Norma, the Sicilian pasta dish of tomatoes and eggplant, basil, pepper flakes and ricotta salata, offers a lot of pairing directions. According to Christie, one could serve this vegetarian recipe with a richer white or a lighter red, such as a Gamay from France or California, which has a fruitiness and slight earthiness that pairs well with tomato sauces. As for what the former sommelier would personally serve? “I’d choose a Vermentino from Sardinia, a white that practically screams ‘Mediterranean.'”
What are your favorite fall dishes—and what wines do you love to drink with them? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.