The 10 Best Wines To Sip In The Fall

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With the arrival of fall, flip-flops are swapped for extra layers as the temperatures start to cool down. Naturally, some habits change to reflect the new season, including the foods and drinks you consume. Tasting Table staff hopped on a call with food blogger and author of the recently published "The Cook's Book," Bri McKoy. Her comprehensive guide offers plenty of recipes for new and seasoned home cooks, as well as a variety of tips for pairing your favorite meals with wine.

McKoy completed The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 and uses her knowledge to provide readers with optimal recommendations. Her wine philosophy is far from snobby or dogmatic, and she highlights the importance of drinking what you like. "You get to choose what you want to pair your food with," she asserts. To discover your favorites, McKoy suggests trying plenty of different varieties, and "when you find something you love, love it."

Discover McKoy's top wine varieties for the fall season to give you some inspiration on your next trip to your local wine shop. It's not all cozy fireside reds, either! McKoy loves contrasting hearty dishes with refreshing wines and gladly reaches for white, rosé, or red wines regardless of the season.

1. Sancerre

Forget what you know about sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and give the grape another chance with a bottle of Sancerre from France. McKoy contrasts it with the former, which she describes as "a little too punchy," characterizing it instead as "a little bit more muted [...] very nice and delicate."

Named for the region where it's produced in the Loire Valley near the Atlantic coast, Sancerre is brimming with a bright and crispy liveliness that pairs well with the heartier nature of some fall food favorites. For McKoy, it's a natural match for a Mediterranean-inspired meatball dinner with hummus, tzatziki, and plenty of pita bread to mop it all up. The zesty flavors pair well with spices like cumin, paprika, and cinnamon. She comments that each sip "makes me want to go back to the meatballs immediately" and "feels like a palate cleanser."

Although its vibrant notes are perfectly suitable for a hot summer day, the wine is also excellent at prepping your mouth for every next bite. Try it with a cheesy potato dish with a buttery pan-fried white fish to get the full effect and taste the classic pairing of Sancerre with seafood.

2. Oregon pinot noir

Pinot noir is grown in dozens of places around the world, and in Oregon, it has been received with high praise. McKoy loves the earthy flavors of the region's style, which she thinks is a really nice pairing with mushrooms. In this case, her go-to dish is a creamy Italian sausage and mushroom pasta with plenty of Parmesan and fresh herbs. Browned sausage and mushroom cooked with a bit of cream deglazed with white wine would pair just as well with a glass of white wine.

In this case, McKoy loves serving the wholesome pasta dish with a lighter red wine. "I put it in the refrigerator just for 20 minutes — just to get a nice little chill on it," she instructs and notes that this pairing is perfect, "especially [on] those fall days where you're like my body says it wants cozy food, but the weather still says it's pretty mild."

Vegetarians can skip the sausage and load up the pasta dish with extra mushrooms or whip up a mushroom risotto for a similar twist. Alternatively, enjoy a wine from the Pacific Northwest with a quintessential local specialty: grilled salmon. Serve it with roasted root vegetables for a fall flair that complements the earthier tones in the pinot.

3. Off-dry riesling

"I don't love sweet wines. Generally, I don't reach for them," McKoy shares as she recommends an off-dry German riesling to go with a yellow coconut milk curry. That being said, wines with perceptible residual sugar can make an excellent pairing for spicier dishes. McKoy quickly learned the mantra "sweet with heat" in her WSET training, and she explains how a seamless pairing can really elevate both the wine and the dish: "I understand the beauty of this wine now because of how it's complementing this spicy dish."

A coconut milk curry is a versatile recipe that can be adapted to your taste; add more chilis to amp up the heat, pick your protein of choice, and stir in as many vegetables as you want. Riesling's acidity lends a fresh boost to the creamy dish, while the subtle sweetness rounds out the heat to tame the spice. The delicate stonefruit and green apple aromas of the wine complete the pairing for a pleasant finish.

Riesling lends itself to the aromatic flavors of many Southeast Asian cuisines. If curry's off the table, consider serving it with a plate of spicy pad Thai. The sour and tangy notes paired with the peanut and fresh herbs are a delightful complement to the wine.

4. Sangiovese

Sangiovese might be better known for the prized Italian growing region, Chianti, in Tuscany. Nevertheless, it's worth identifying the grape at the center of this world-famous wine. While Sangiovese is a common pairing for tomato-based pasta dishes, it works well with a range of foods. With its cherry and plum aromas and notes of smoke and dried herbs, the grape makes a stellar pairing with a red meat sauce or grilled vegetable lasagna — a cozy fall favorite we'd happily eat year-round.

In cooler weather, McKoy loves serving Sangiovese with a hearty bowl of beef chili, which she points out is perfect for meal prep since it's even better the next day. "I feel like it complements the acidity of the tomatoes so well, but it also has a bit of brightness for cutting through the heaviness of the chili," McKoy notes.

Describing her go-to recipe, she says, "It's kind of like a clean out the pantry situation — bell peppers, carrots, I also like beans in my chili." There's plenty of room for customization, though, and McKoy points to toppings as being the key to a satisfying meal of chili or soup — including cornbread croutons. "I like to top it with like sharp cheddar cheese and sour cream," she notes.

5. Champagne or Chablis

For all the oaked chardonnay haters out there, consciously choosing to pick up a bottle made with this variety might require a push. Start with a blanc de blancs Champagne, made almost exclusively with chardonnay grapes. Commonly relegated to celebrations, the arrival of fall should be reason enough to pop the cork. The esteemed sparkling wine is extremely versatile to pair, whether you're sipping it solo, with finger foods, or with your main course.

While the fried chicken and Champagne duo have enjoyed its time in the spotlight, McKoy is a huge fan of pairing roast chicken and mashed potatoes with bubbles. If you've skipped whole-roasted chicken all summer to avoid overheating your kitchen, now's the time. "I love making roast chicken; sometimes I'll do that in lieu of [turkey], especially if we're having a smaller Thanksgiving gathering." There are plenty of ways to experiment with roast chicken, yet McKoy loves a traditional rendition with butter, lemon, fresh herbs, garlic, and "obviously with some very buttery mashed potatoes."

"I just think that bubbles are so fun to be paired with like the crispiness of the chicken and then the juiciness of it," McKoy shares and adds, "I feel like it cuts through the butteriness of the potatoes, so I love that." If you're less fond of sparkling wine, she recommends Chablis, a bright and crisp style of chardonnay from Northern France that she describes as "light and bright and really delicious and drinkable."

6. Albariño

If you're always reaching for a nondescript bottle of pinot grigio, it's time to branch out with other white wine varieties. Albariño is mainly grown in Spain and Portugal; in the latter, it goes by Alvarinho and is used in many Vinho Verde blends. The refreshing citrusy palate and backbone of salinity make this grape an excellent match for seafood.

As fall rolls around, it's natural to reach for heartier cooking methods, including frying. McKoy recommends serving a chilled bottle of Albariño at your next fried fish taco night. Add some coleslaw and avocado for a filling meal with your favorite food groups. Whether you're adding the meat to taco shells or enjoying a fried fish fillet on its own, this wine will wash away any greasiness on your palate.

If fried fish tacos aren't your thing, serve this aromatic white with a platter of grilled vegetables and your favorite selection of cheeses for an easy dinner that will keep you out of the kitchen so you can sit back and enjoy the wine.

7. Zinfandel

This bold red wine grape is a perfect contender for cooler temperatures with its rich qualities. Still relatively medium-bodied, this fruit-forward wine is popular in the U.S. or under the alias primitivo in Southern Italy. McKoy is a fan of drinking it with pizza, "Especially if it's like a barbecue chicken pizza," she muses. The tangy notes of the barbecue sauce complement the cooked fruit aromas of the wine for a seamless duo. Meanwhile, the chicken and various toppings get an extra boost of flavor when washed down with a glass of zinfandel.

If you'd rather not have your pizza and chicken mingling, serve the wine with pepperoni pizza or with barbecue chicken and a side of roast potatoes or mac and cheese. These comforting dishes are the perfect way to roll into cooler fall temperatures. And thanks to zinfandel's rounded fruit and subtly spiced smoky backbone, it offers just the right touch to enhance your meal — even if it's just a slice of pepperoni pizza.

8. GSM rosé blend

If you only drink rosé in the summer, you're missing out on one of the most versatile wines to pair with food. McKoy is a big fan of GSM blends, made with varying amounts of grenache, syrah, and mourvèdre grapes. These rosés are popular in the South of France, namely the Provence region, but the style is increasingly mimicked in other wine-producing countries. McKoy often reaches for bottles from California, and Paso Robles is one prime region growing many of those French varieties.

Considering rosé pairs with a vast range of foods, you can enjoy its lighter nature to balance out a hearty stew, curry, or rich pasta dish. Serve it with salmon, cheese pizza, or a lemon and herb chicken too. Or, follow McKoy's lead and serve it with stuffed mushrooms: "I feel like there's something fun with the earthiness of the mushrooms and a bright rosé that just kind of plays off of each other."

You can choose your favorite fillings, but McKoy loves loading the mushrooms with cheese — cream cheese, Parmesan, mascarpone, you name it! Add crumbled sausage for protein or chop up vegetables and sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top of the caps before baking them in a hot oven. Extra points if you foraged the mushrooms yourself!

9. Red Bordeaux blend

Red wines from Bordeaux, France, have long been considered a benchmark of quality and prestige, but you don't need to splash out for a first-growth bottle to get an idea of the style. The red wines are made with a handful of grapes, mainly cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The blend offers complex aromas that vary depending on the predominance of the varieties used. Tannins range from smooth to pronounced, and aromas include dark fruits, herbs, spices, leather, licorice, chocolate, and vanilla.

These wines are commonly served with meat dishes, especially when the tannin structure is a bit more present, as it acts as a palate cleanser. McKoy enjoys serving a bottle of Bordeaux with short ribs slowly braised in red wine — or, as she calls them, "tipsy short ribs." Her personal recipe involves a full bottle of wine, so be sure to pick one up for cooking and one for drinking. "I feel like the wine is decadent, and the dish is decadent," she remarks. The lengthy cooking process ensures the meat falls off the bone while simultaneously filling your kitchen with savory aromas to add an extra cozy layer on a brisk fall day.

For a different take, pour a glass of red Bordeaux with a spiced chicken stir-fry or tuna steak. These dishes provide a solid foundation of flavor to stand up to the wine while simultaneously benefiting from its bold and rounded taste.

10. Vinho Verde

When you're looking for wines to pair with hearty stick-to-your-ribs comfort food, it makes sense to balance it out with lighter styles. Vinho Verde wines from Portugal are typically low in alcohol and have a light body with a hint of spritz. Enjoy a refreshing glass to cleanse your palate with the delicate citrus and floral notes.

McKoy loves serving this wine with a sweet potato enchilada casserole that you can customize to your liking. She makes her own version of Chipotle's honey vinaigrette to dress the dish, but get creative with garnishes when you're whipping it up at home. Load the casserole with sweet potatoes, tortillas, canned green chiles, and bell peppers, and add beans or meat to suit your desires.

Alternatively, pour a chilled glass of Vinho Verde to go with a sweet and sour stir-fry from your local Chinese takeout spot — there's nothing cozier than pulling on your wooly socks and enjoying a lowkey night in. Or, pair it with its natural match: seafood. A creamy seafood pasta dish is hearty and nourishing, and serving it with a crisp glass of Vinho Verde is the perfect mood enhancer for a dreary fall evening.