2017-10-02 / Wine Notes

The Great Pumpkin Match

Robert D. Richards, CSW

October marks the season of the pumpkin. Coffee shops will sport pumpkin spice lattes, pubs will pour pumpkin ale, restaurants will stuff ravioli with the gourd, and pie shells will fill up with its puree. From breads to cheesecakes, in October, pumpkin is the squash of the month.

It’s surprising that there’s no pumpkin wine. Wait. There is. If you search long enough you’ll find it — if you really want it, that is. While orange-hued pumpkin wine may not be a desired quaff, plenty of wines can be paired with the pumpkin-infused foods that abound during this time of the year.
Pumpkin dishes often exhibit both sweet and savory elements. The intersection of those two tastes provides a good starting point for pairing wines. Throw the creamy, buttery texture into the mix and some natural matches begin to surface.

Chardonnay, particularly the buttery kind so prevalent in California, is a good bet for foods showcasing the flavor of pumpkin. Those “creamy” wines get their buttery nature from malolactic fermentation. That process takes place after the original fermentation, in which yeast converts sugar into alcohol. During malolactic fermentation, bacteria cultures are used to convert malic acid (think of the tartness of a green apple) to lactic acid (think milk). The soft, rounded quality of the finished wine nicely complements the natural sweetness of the pumpkin without overpowering it.

The fruitiness of an off-dry Riesling and the spiciness of an off-dry Gewürztraminer pair well with the pumpkin dish, especially those displaying similar characteristics.

For pumpkin-based desserts, like cakes and pies, choose a sweet wine like a late-harvest Sémillon or Riesling. Sémillon is the principal grape in Sauternes, the famed sweet wine from France, which also is a good match for pumpkin desserts. Here are a few suggestions. •SCM

Gilbert Gewürztraminer
Columbia Valley 2014

(#72984, $17.99)
This highly rated wine exhibits the characteristic spiciness, along with floral aromas and hints of peach and apricot.
Fess Parker Riesling Santa Barbara County Rodney’s Vineyard 2013
(#41321, $19.99)
Green apples and citrus mark this offering from the winery made famous by the late actor who portrayed Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone on television.
Hermann J Wiemer Riesling
Finger Lakes Late Harvest 2013

(#72070, $16.84)
The extra ripening time provides the added sugar to the grapes yielding a moderate sweetness to the wine. The Riesling grapes give it the floral notes.

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