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Another season, another edition of “What should we drink now?” Contrary to popular belief, cooler weather isn’t just for red wines—in fact, plenty of experts will tell you that there’s a time and place for any wine, no matter the temperature outside. From toasty Viognier to a rich, warming red blend and everything in between, here’s our official list of expert-recommended wines for fall.
“Whether you’re still lounging poolside in Los Angeles or rocking beanies on the streets of New York City, there’s a universal vibe shift from summer to fall, but light-bodied and chill-worthy reds are always a safe go-to,” says Coly Den Haan, owner of Vinovore, a wine shop that keeps women winemakers at the forefront.
Chilled, light-bodied red wines, she says, are ideal for leaf-peeping picnics and holiday dishes alike (and of course, it’s more essential than ever to show our support to California wineries). Den Haan shares a perfect example: “Camins 2 Dreams makes a syrah blended from a few vintages that tight-rope walks the perfect line between big, juicy flavor and light, fresh elegance.” This syrah blend, made in Santa Ynez Valley by Native American winemaker Tara Gomez and Catalunya native Mireia Taribó (a wife-and-wife team), is a natural wine bursting with boysenberry and pepper notes. It’s best sipped at a slight chill.
“Aslina ‘Umsasane’ is a tasty Bordeaux blend from Ntsiki Biyela and is a perfect fall go-to,” says Den Haan. “Ntsiki is notably the first black female winemaker in South Africa and is really pushing the boundaries of what we perceive South African wine to be. I love how the rich, smokey, and peppery tones feel like that first fall fireplace you light to get cozy on a brisk night. Umsasane is also brightly layered with notes of mint, tomatoes, and fresh figs, reminding you [that] it’s not winter yet!”
Sommelier and wine educator Brianne Cohen recommends Kenwood Vineyards’ 2016 blend of merlot, zinfandel, and syrah to keep you warm as the weather cools: “This wine is crafted from the vineyards on Jack London's historic ranch in Sonoma,” she tells The Spruce Eats. “This blend epitomizes a warming red—it's serving me plentiful red fruit plus a healthy dose of spiciness from the 18 months in mostly new oak. Grab this wine with a blanket and enjoy a cold fall night on the couch!”
Reds aren’t the only wines to offer a warm, spiced hug in these trying, chilly times. Malek Amrani, winemaker and founder of The Vice Wine, details all the reasons to drink Viognier this season. “Viognier is a versatile, fun and complex varietal that makes a perfect pairing to many seasonal fall dishes and activities,” he shares. “[It’s] a full-bodied white wine with a lush and soft character, known for its pronounced natural aromas of tangerine, peach, dried apricot, and honeysuckle.” Amrani ferments and ages his Viognier in French oak, which imparts a toasty nuttiness along with notes of pumpkin seed and vanilla.
If like Den Haan, you're a huge proponent of a good chilled red, we recommend popping Silk and Spice, an award-winning blend of native Portuguese grapes that proves shockingly good for the price, into the fridge for about 30 minutes. It’s vibrant, luscious, balanced, and rife with cooked black fruit notes layered with vanilla, cacao, and baking spice.
Pro tip: Pair this wine with Chef Nini Nguyen’s Szechuan barbecue ribs (she hosts incredible cooking classes online) per her pairing recommendation, and we'd recommend keeping the recipe bookmarked to recreate throughout the year. While grilling during cooler weather isn’t always an option, there’s always the broiler, grill pan, and other options—either way, Nguyen’s barbecue sauce with Silk and Spice is a winning combo for all seasons.
Master Sommelier Dustin Wilson of Verve Wine, a boutique in New York and San Francisco (and soon Chicago), offers some pointers on picking out the perfect white wine for fall. “As the weather starts to cool off, I like to move to a bit more textured wines that have added weight and body, and switch to a savory flavor rather than the light, refreshing wines we gravitate to during the summer.”
Some Chardonnays and Chenin Blancs certainly fit the bill, but if you’re looking to explore the diversity that Grüner Veltliner has to offer throughout the year, this is an excellent opportunity to do so. “In the fall, the Smaragd Grüner from the Wachau region works really well. Because the Smaragd holds more texture and weight, it can stand up to the heartier flavors and dishes that come with the season.”
If you like to drink rosé all year long, you are not alone. The Spruce Eats spoke to the one and only Joel Gott about why we should be sipping rosé in the fall. “Rosé is so versatile and pairs well with most foods, so it doesn’t have to be limited to just summer. We almost always serve rosé on our Thanksgiving table, as it goes so well with turkey and all of the sides,” he says. “Primarily Grenache from vineyards in Monterey, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, our Joel Gott 2019 Central Coast Rosé is a great fall staple as it's easily enjoyed on its own or paired with almost any food.”
“While I drink orange wine all year, I definitely think fall is the perfect season for orange wine,” says Doreen Winkler, legendary New York City sommelier and founder of Orange Glou, a monthly subscription service that delivers rare, fun, and highly allocated orange wines (also referred to as amber or skin contact wines) to your doorstep.
“Since it’s made with skin contact, [orange wine] has more body than white or rosé and it will pair well with the richer flavors in fall dishes.” Winkler recommends trying Anderson Valley winery Donkey & Goat’s 2018 Stone Crusher Roussanne. This California wine is fresh, super dry, and full of soft citrus notes. The winemaker recommends pairing with honey mustard pork chops.
Wine and spirits expert Prairie Rose, host of the Bit by a Fox podcast, turns to a new red blend from Rioja as chili season approaches. “The bold blend of mostly Tempranillo grapes, along with the aromatic Garnacha and Bobal, can stand up to the rich meat, cumin, and chili spice in a traditional turkey chili,” she says, adding that the touch of oak and the balanced acidity make this wine well-equipped to handle a tomato-forward dish.
Made by the Campo Viejo winery in Logroño, Spain, this rich expression of the Rioja region also represents the three dynamic female winemakers behind it. Plus, at this price, you really can’t ask for a more versatile, delicious option for cool-weather sipping or pairing.
“When I think of drinking wine in fall, I think of the first brisk nights of the year, and hunkering down with a nice glass of wine paired with comforting food,” says Maxwell Reiss, Beverage Director at Gracias Madre in West Hollywood. “Unfortunately for us here in L.A., we have to conjure the feeling of fall flavor amidst sporadic heat waves. I more often than not find myself hedging my bets with a nice, juicy light-bodied red wine. If the weather has decided to crank things up to the 90s, you can just pop it in the fridge and enjoy it chilled, and on chillier more autumnal nights, these styles of red wine go amazingly well with most fall comfort foods.”
Currently, Reiss is a big fan of Olivier Minot’s La Boutanche, a Gamay from Southern Beaujolais. “[It] not only boasts an incredibly reasonable price tag, the bottle is also freaking adorable—and it comes exclusively in one-liter [format].” On warmer fall days, Reiss recommends popping this bottle in the fridge for a bit, and on cooler days, simply serve it at room temperature. According to him, this Gamay is perfect to sip on its own in a social setting or as an easy, fun pairing with any fall-inspired dish.
RG|NY, a family-owned North Fork winery with roots in Mexico, could quickly become your newest obsessions—the branding on these wines is certainly eye-catching, and the contents are equally captivating. Because it’s tough to choose which bottle to continue sipping this season, we suggest going all out with RG|NY’s second-tier club offering, The Canopy.
It’s as fancy as it sounds: members get a quarterly shipment of select wines, plus a 25 percent member discount on all purchases (among other perks), making this an excellent option if you’re planning to host often or gift multiple bottles of wine as the holidays approach. In terms of the wines themselves, you’re looking at high-quality reds, whites, and rosés that capture the winemaker’s design-inspired approach, and the pairing options are endless—as are the conversations sparked by any given bottle.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Céline Bossart is a longtime wine and spirits writer, who tastes all of the wines all of the time (it’s her job). With the help of a few experts—from sommeliers and wine educators to winemakers—she curated this list that's perfectly suited for the cooler months of fall.