Sommelier Charles Ford’s Four Wines for Fall

Americans seem to know exactly what they want as leaves turn for the fall season. Weekend apple picking. Pumpkin spiced lattes. Football. Homemade chili. Watching football while eating homemade chili.

charles-apronBut there’s one autumn-pairing-paradox many can’t wrap their heads around, and that’s whether to pour white wine or red wine in the fall? Or pumpkin spiced wine? (Actually, banish that last thought.)

Luckily, Charles Ford, sommelier and wine director at The Bristol in Chicago, has made the decision easier: Drink both, he says, but be smart about it.

For example, pick meatier whites for fall:

“It is perfectly acceptable to drink white in the cooler fall months. However, these white wines need body, substance, and a bit of traction on the palate. The wine region of Rueda has some outstanding bottles of Verdejo that have begun to arrive in the market.”  

And as for reds, don’t get too heavy too fast (act like it’s dating):

“It’s not yet time for monster, oaky reds, and the window for delicate Pinot Noir has passed. Tempranillo is the perfect all-fall-and-winter wine. Ribera del Duero makes juicy and vibrantly young un-oaked Tempranillo, and the region also produces elegant, lifted, and sophisticated oak-aged reds.”

So which Rueda whites and Ribera del Duero reds to pair with autumn? Here’s Charles’ top four pics for fall pairing guide. If you like one, click to find it near you.habis

It’s a bit of a white wine splurge look forward to after hours of lugging way too many apples through way too many fields. This Rueda gives a delightful nod to orchards, pit fruits, and spices. Sip with a super-fresh salad of sliced apples (the ones you just picked!) and Gorgonzola. Then, cinnamon spiced apple pie.



It’s clean. It’s bright. Citrusy and blossomy. But with a pale straw yellow color, this Verdejo packs the intensity and complexity to stand up to the bold cheeses and cured meats you’ve packed. Bring a couple of bottles to share with friends. The autumn-esque butterfly/fall leaf on the label is something seasonal to show off, too – the perfect fall label.



The first giant pot simmering slowly on the stove (we know, we know, you’re freezing most of it) deserves a fitting bottle of red. This Ribera del Duero will pair with smoky chili and hearty stew…as it’s rich and fruity with smoky mineral aromas. Well balanced with a beautiful color, it’s definitely one to keep handy for autumn Sundays.




Just look at the tree on that bottle – how fall is that? This is a fancy, rich Tempranillo to share with someone special. Taste hints of cocoa and dark fruit. It’s serious and elegant, exactly how you’d like to appear. Serve with a nice steak or voluptuous, homemade ragu as you cozy up.


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