The nights are drawing in and the temperature is dropping, so we’re changing how we cook and what we eat to feel more cosy. Which wines match these hearty, comforting autumnal meals?

Autumn Wines for Autumn Meals

In autumn, warming food like stews, roasts, chilli-con-carne and toad-in-the-hole start to appear more regularly on the dinner table. At Halloween and on Bonfire night we warm up with jacket potatoes and cheese, baked beans in tomato sauce, thick soup and hot dogs. All this hearty seasonal food calls for robust wine to match, as whatever is in your glass will need to stand up to those strong flavours and warming spices.

 

White Wines

Aromatic grapes such as Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Torrontés, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc all fare well against big flavours. The combination of alcohol and spice can set your mouth on fire though, so if you’re shy of chilli heat, opt for lower alcohol Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. A bit of sweetness can counteract the fire on your plate, so even though Gewurztraminer from Alsace can often exceed 13.5% abv (alcohol by volume), if you pick one with some residual sugar, it will calm things down a bit.

Alternatively, if you’re a chilli fan and enjoy the "burn", then choose a Viognier from Côte Rôtie or the South of France, with around 14% abv. Torrontés is another grape that packs an alcohol punch, particularly from the warmer Mendoza region in Argentina. Choose this for a warming kick with spicy food.

Further to these suggestions, many whites that have been made or aged in oak will flatter the savoury flavours of autumn food, so pick your favourite.

 

Red Wines

Often with food pairing we look for wines that are high in acidity to pair with the high acid we find in foods—such as tomato-based dishes—or to work with oily, fatty, creamy dishes. There are not these same constraints with our Bonfire night menu, so instead think about flavoursome red wines, where acidity is less of a feature. As with the whites, if you are eating dishes with a lot of spicy seasoning and want to avoid feeling like a fire-breather, watch the alcohol levels and avoid anything with a high abv. With this in mind, head to slightly cooler climes such as New Zealand, coastal areas of Chile or moderately warm regions in Europe for your wines. The Merlot grape in these areas produces wines with modest amounts of alcohol, soft tannins and lovely ripe fruit flavours. Look for wines from Hawke’s Bay, Tuscany and Bordeaux.

Alternatively a Rioja Crianza will have similar characteristics, as would a mid-priced Montelpulciano d’Abruzzo, though with a little more acidity if you prefer that style.

Finally, what to have with the toasted marshmallows? Try a light, intensely fruity Moscato d'Asti. I show this combination a lot on my WSET Level 2 courses – the wine is sweet, low in alcohol, great value and enjoyed by everyone!

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Wine tips from Erica Dent AIWS, Certified Educator with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and Winner of the WSET / Riedel Wine Educator of the Year 2013 @EDW_WSET enjoydiscoveringwine.com

For more information about the Wine & Spirit Education Trust or to find courses near you, visit: WSETGlobal.com

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