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A Fall Full of Flavor: A Guide to Spice & Herb Wine Pairings

The lovely fall season is upon us, and plenty of lovely views, scents, foods, and drinks have come along with it. Gone is the barbeque, and in comes stews, casseroles, and other hearty dishes. Spice flavors that we put away in the spring come out from the cabinets, and suddenly our favorite meals are boasting flavors that warm the heart and soul. The different spices and herbs we use in our daily cooking can actually end up playing a big part in our mood—ever had a dish so lovingly flavored that your mood shifted joyously? Well, when you pair those flavorful foods with the right wines, that joy can amplify tenfold. This blog will talk about the joy of spice and herb wine pairings so that your fall can be full of flavor.

In some our previous pairings blogs, we’ve discussed the basic components of wine, one of them being spice. There’s spice in food, of course, but wines also have their own distinct spices as well. The most important tip we have for pairing wines with herbs and spices is understanding the various aroma compounds found in both spice and wine. Unsurprisingly, many herbs and spices contain the same aroma compounds as wine. For example, Syrah contains notes of black pepper, which means that when you match Syrah with a spice similar to black pepper, you’ll get a delicious pairing. Therefore, your best bet for pairing spice and wine is to pair congruently. Below, we’ll discuss the different herbs and spices that can influence your wine tastings—read on for more important autumn spice, herb, and wine pairings.

1. Basil

Some herbs are more citrus-driven, while others offer a spicier flavor—but basil is one of the most flexible herbs you can use in cooking. When you cook with basil as your main herb and think about the proper wine pairing, you have to understand that basil is always highly aromatic. If you use basil as a bright pop of color in an appetizer (such as caprese), you’ll want to pair it with a light white. On the other hand, if you use it as a spice throughout a dish, your options are less limited.

Wine Pairings: riesling, cabernet rosé, and sauvignon blanc

2. Mint

Similar to basil, mint is a very aromatic herb that’s quite noticeable in a dish. Pairing with mint fully depends on what sort of dish you’re creating. If it’s a heavier, meatier dish such as lamb, you’ll want to pair it with a cabernet—you’ll be playing off the meat and the punch of the mint. When it comes to fresh, clean dishes, you’ll want to opt for a sharp white—but make sure they’re not full-bodied, as that can mask the flavor.

Wine Pairings: merlot, cabernet blends, and riesling

3. Sage

Sage is a wonderful fall and winter herb that brings an incredible depth to your meals. Sage is often used in these colder months, and the floral notes are paired most often with pork chops, stuffing, and other heavier dishes. Try pairing pumpkin ravioli in a sage brown butter sauce with a viognier or zesty pinot gris—the meal will ooze comfort.

Wine Pairings: viognier, pinot noir, and Chianti

4. Garlic

Garlic is used in all seasons, but garlic is used in a much different way in the fall than it is in hotter months. You’ll find it in heavier and creamier dishes, but what often complicates the wine pairing process is just how much garlic is in the dish. What you have to keep in mind is that the longer garlic is cooked in a dish, the less you’ll notice it. A quick garlic bread will have stronger garlic notes, whereas garlic won’t overpower a roast chicken. When garlic is noticeable in a dish, opt for a citrusy white wine, but for slow-cooked dishes, pick up a grenache.

Wine Pairings: dry Champagne, grenache, and sauvignon blanc

5. Bay Leaf

Another dried floral herb, bay leaf is most often used in soups and stews. This means you’ll need to choose a bottle of wine that can handle the rolling flavors in each spoonful. Whip up a hearty lentil soup and pair it with a lovely sangiovese that can withstand the chunky boldness. If you decide to use bay leaves in your roasted potatoes, pair them with an easy drinker such as sauvignon blanc.

Wine Pairings: sauvignon blanc, merlot, and sangiovese

6. Cinnamon

Of course, cinnamon has to be included in any list of fall spices—this sweet baking spice is the master of fall and winter flavor. Whether you bake a scrumptious brown butter cinnamon cookie or a lamb burger, you have quite a few different wine options. The wine you choose here should never be bitter. If you want a red, opt for a brighter, berry-forward wine; otherwise, opt for a medium-bodied white.

Wine Pairings: Beaujolais, zinfandel, and gewürztraminer

7. Ginger (savory)

Savory ginger is similar to garlic in the sense that it’s used in quite a lot of dishes, so your wine pairing depends on how much those ginger notes pull through. When you pair ginger with white meat and vegetables, head for an aromatic white such as viognier. You could also try a buttery chardonnay if you’re feeling experimental. When you’re pairing the ginger with any sort of red meat or spicier foods, you’ll want to pick a red that complements the ginger’s spiciness, such as a Syrah or a zinfandel. Ginger wine pairings depend on the food you’re pairing it with.

Wine Pairing: muscat, viognier, pinot noir

8. Anise

With a taste similar to licorice, fennel, and tarragon, anise is a spice with a very distinct flavor. You can often find it in savory meat recipes, stews, and braising broths, and it can be used whole or ground. When you’re pairing your wine with anise, you’ll want to make sure to picking a wine that can handle the spice’s strong flavor. If you use anise in a meaty dish, opt for an earthy pinot noir. If you use it in your baking, pick up an unoaked chardonnay.

Wine Pairing: chardonnay (unoaked), sangiovese, pinot noir

This fall, make sure you’re getting the most out of your hearty dishes by pairing them with a delicious bottle of wine. For all your autumn wine needs, look to Wines ’Til Sold Out—our wine deals online offer you some of the best wines for the season. Spice and herb wine pairings have never been so simple!

A Guide to Spice & Herb Wine Pairings