Red wines to pair with our favorite Fall comfort foods

Jacqueline Zonkowski
Lifestyle grey Dot

Our lineup of great comfort food recipes to enjoy with bold red wine

If you enjoy a full-bodied red wine with notes of tobacco and leather, and you also love the comforting stews, soups, casseroles, and spices that come along every fall, you have come to the right place. Fall is a magical time of year that brings cooler weather, gorgeous foliage, and shorter days. But most importantly, fall brings us harvest season! Each year during the grape harvest, we get to enjoy the labor of love from vintages past that manifest in that dark ruby elixir synonymous with fall. These dark and earthy red wines warm our bodies and souls and play an essential role in what we eat this time of year. Whether we pair the wine with hearty fall comfort foods or use it as a base in some of the most comforting classics from the French and Italian cooking styles, red wine is the star of autumn.

Red wines range from light and sweet to dark and savory and everywhere in between. We will take a culinary journey into why certain reds pair better with different dishes based on the wine’s attributes and how they can complement or cut through some of our favorite hearty fall classics.


Pumpkin and Pinot Noir

This wouldn’t be an article about fall comforts without bringing up the two most popular fall flavors. Roasted pumpkin, or any squash for that matter, is a quintessential fall dish with both sweet and savory flavors that can be enhanced by crumbly soft cheeses such as goat or feta. These flavors pair perfectly with another fall classic, Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is one of the world’s most popular light red wines due to its light body, soft tannins, and medium acidity. Pinot Noir boasts flavors of warm spices such as cloves and vanilla but is also fruity with hints of fresh red berries. The slight acidity from the wine will help cut through some of the dense, savory pumpkin and allow the soft tart cheese to pop with flavor.


Shepherd’s pie and Merlot

Merlot is an often-overlooked red varietal, and that needs to change. Is it because everyone’s grandmother drinks Merlot? Maybe, but if yours is anything like my grandmother, it’s been working for her for 90 years, so Merlot is doing something right. Shepherd’s pie may be the most comforting of all comfort foods. Savory ground beef or lamb swimming in gravy made from beef stock, aromatic spices, mirepoix, and in this case, beer! Then our rich stew is topped with creamy mashed potatoes and some cheese for good measure. This dish will go beautifully with nearly any red wine, but Merlot and its medium tannin structure will help your taste buds navigate all of the savory flavors. At the same time, the dark plum and dark berry tasting notes will lighten the mood on your palate.   


Coq au vin and Syrah

This French classic is the perfect hearty meal for a fantastic fall evening. With a rich red wine sauce, fatty chunks of bacon or pancetta, and fall off the bone tender chicken, what could be better? Traditionally made with full-bodied reds from the Burgundy wine region of France, this cold weather classic pairs beautifully with Petite Sirah from Northern California and Washington state. A relative of the French Syrah, Petite Sirah is one of the darkest varietals of red wine. With plum, dark chocolate, black pepper, and leather flavors, Petite Sirah is full-bodied and carries strong tannins with medium acidity and compliments this decadent dish perfectly.


Chili and Tempranillo

There are fewer things that are more Americana than sitting on the couch on a breezy, relaxed afternoon with a bowl of chili and your favorite football team on television. Chili is a relatively easy dish to whip up and has endless variations depending on what you have in the kitchen and are in the mood for. A traditional beef chili with a tomato base and spicy poblano or ancho chili paste is an excellent start to any chili. Add in some fire-roasted jalapenos, smoked paprika, and chipotles in adobo, then top it off with some freshly grated cheddar cheese, and you are ready for game day! To cut through that spice, a medium-bodied Tempranillo is a perfect wine pairing option. This well-balanced wine incorporates some traditional fall tasting notes like fig, tobacco, and dark cherries while maintaining a medium tannin structure with medium to high acidity, which will help with the spice of the chili.


Cheeseburger au poivre and Petit Verdot

While baking casseroles and simmering stews are synonymous with the fall and winter months, in my mind, grilling season is 12 months a year. A thick, juicy, medium-rare burger is a craving that does not wait until the weather heats back up. Adding earthy gouda and a decadent cognac peppercorn sauce gives a gourmet and comforting spin to a traditional American burger. Enjoy this mouth-watering burger with a full-bodied Petit Verdot. Petit Verdot is high in tannins which will help cut through the red meat and creamy flavor-rich au poivre.


Marinated flank steak and Malbec

This recipe has the option to finish your steak on the grill or the stovetop and oven. So if the snow is falling and arctic winds are howling, maybe just watch through the window and pan-sear your steak from your warm and fragrant kitchen. Few things go together in this world better than a beautiful medium-rare steak and a glass of red wine. In this case, Malbec, with its full body, slight sweetness, and hints of tobacco and chocolate, is a perfect complement to our flank steak that was marinated in a salty, umami, aromatic haven of flavors. 


Pot roast and Cabernet

Pot roast is a dish many of us have grown up with and it might be among those most variable by region, family and season. This recipe is by memory and can certainly take an update or two to make it the dish you remember. Not every dish is automatically thought of with an iconic glass of wine, but we suggest you try a Cabernet – Merlot blend. Round out the night with some board games to really get in the homey mood. 


Lasagna Bolognese and Zinfandel

It’s time to bench your usual lasagna and level up with a lasagna Bolognese.  Find a weekend where there is plenty of time (snow and cold is helpful) and your dedication will be rewarded. This isn’t a difficult dish, but there’s lots of steps. Our recipe features a Bolognese sauce that is so good on its own you could stop there and enjoy it with pasta, but keep going! Or be bold, double the recipe and save one batch for your next pasta night!  There’s nothing quite as special as a cold, snowy weekend and a show stopping dinner. Grab a bottle of Zinfandel to pair with this hearty dish.


Braised short rib ragu and Syrah

Short ribs have definitely had their time in the spotlight lately.  You can find them on almost any menu, but why not take your own turn at it? This braised short rib rage takes a long time in the oven so break out a game of Monopoly or have a Harry Potter marathon while you cook. This rich dish will be delightfully enjoyed with a bold Syrah or a Bordeaux blend.  Better yet, grab both and have one while you cook and one while you eat!


Wild mushroom flatbread and Merlot

This is perfect as a quick, easy appetizer or a light dinner. So when you’re having a girls night in and don’t want to go too heavy with the menu whip this baby up and pull out the Merlot. You can even grab a red blend that’s Merlot dominant and see how the favors of the wine dance with the wild mushrooms in this dish.

Now it’s time for you to dig in to some of our fall comfort foods. Bon Appétit!

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About Jacqueline Zonkowski

As an avid traveler, Jacqueline started finding herself in popular wine regions around the world, fueling her passion for food and wine. When she isn't traveling you will find her at home with a glass of wine in hand and a smile on her face while tasting new recipes with her Chef husband. She received her WSET Level II Certification with Distinction, Argentina Wine Specialist, and Oregon Wine Expert certifications. Jacqueline has worked in the wine marketing and hospitality industry for many years. She continues to increase her wine knowledge and looks forward to creating her own wine one day.