Inspired by the cult documentary film Somm, Uncorked is the new Esquire series that follows six sommeliers as they prepare to take one of the toughest test on this planet, the final level of the Master Sommelier exam. So, Eater caught up with the show's cast Jack Mason (Marta, NY), Yannick Benjamin (University Club, NY), Jane Lopes (Eleven Madison Park, NY), Dana Gaiser (Lauber Imports), Josh Nadel (NoHo Hospitality Group, NY) and Morgan Harris (Aureole, NY) to talk about the flavor of the season: pumpkin spice. Below, each offers thoughts on wines to pair. Meanwhile, check out Uncorked when it premieres on November 10 at 10/9c. Spoiler: Some passed, others did not.
Q: What kind of wine pairs best with pumpkin spice?
Dana Gaiser: As for pairing with pumpkin spice, my first thought would be Alsace Pinot Gris from a producer such as Domaine Weinbach, Cuvée Sainte Catherine ($50). The richness of Pinot Gris with a combination of stone fruits and sweet citrus pairs up well with the rounder flavor of pumpkin and can handle the fall spices. Try a drier style of Pinot Gris with your savory dishes and a sweet version like 1999 Domaine Weinbach Tokay Pinot Gris ($90) with your desserts.
Josh Nadel: Alsatian wines are my go-to for pairing with the rich, aromatic spices of fall cooking. The ripeness of grapes achieved in Alsace, combined with the unbridled flavors of the Riesling and Pinot Gris grown there, are a great match. Furthermore, these wines are unadulterated by oak, which is a big part of food pairing. Finally, there is a weight to the wines which, after the crisp and mouthwatering wines of summer, is a welcome change of pace. Some of my favorite producers are Albert Boxler ($36), Domaine Weinbach ($33), Rolly Gassmann ($30), Domaine Schoffit ($28), Domaine Barmes Buecher ($40).
Jane Lopes: I would say 2012 J. Hofstätter Gewürztraminer Kolbenhof ($52). Gewürztraminer is heavy on spice notes echoed by the pumpkin spice flavor, and this wine has enough residual sugar to match the sweet preparations that normally go along with the spice.
Yannick Benjamin: 2012 Château de Fosse-Sèche "Arcane" ($30) is one of my favorite Chenin Blancs on the market. Depending on the amount of pumpkin spice, this is a dry Chenin that can fool you into thinking that it could be sweet just based on the nose. An explosion of baked apple and dried honey with a hint.
2014 Cascinetta Vietti Moscato D'Asti ($15) is not your bottom shelf Moscato d’Asti. Vietti makes some the best Moscato d’Asti, and I have to admit it is my absolute guilty pleasure. It has intense aromas of peaches, rose petals and ginger. On the palate it is delicately sweet and sparkling with modest acidity, and would be a magical pairing with the pumpkin spice.
When I think of Port wine and the smell of pumpkin spice, I automatically think of the fall and the winter season. Pumpkin Spice on warm bread or a freshly baked cake. A vintage Port, like 2000 Fonseca Vintage Port ($100), is an automatic match made in food and wine pairing heaven. Vintage Port often gets forgotten in the back of the wine shop, but go ahead and pick yourself up one for your next dinner when you feature your pumpkin spice-infused dessert.
Morgan Harris: Pumpkin spice and Alsace Pinot Gris is a match made in heaven. The wines have a great mix of all the spiced cinnamon, clove, and mace and cardamom flavors you find in pumpkin spice; the pairing is very like-with-like. For something savory like butternut squash soup with pumpkin spices, try a dry wine like Domaine Zind-Humbrecht's Rotenberg ($49). As you move into sweeter dishes like pumpkin pie, or pumpkin spice ice cream, picking up a sweeter wine like Domaine Schoffit Clos St. Théobald Rangen ($45) will be the move, as the sugar levels between wine and the dish will be more harmonious.
Jack Mason: Generally, pumpkin spice flavor has some sort of sweetness associated with it and therefore you need wines with different levels of sweetness to match. Here are three different options for food items with varying levels of sweetness ranging from dry to dessert level. For a more savory preparation, like a pumpkin ravioli, I really enjoy Wind Gap’s Trousseau Gris ($23). Notes of apple cider, bruised pear, and spice all with a textured mouthfeel make this dry wine an amazing pairing with all things autumn.
When your dinner or snack has a hint of sweetness, nothing screams pumpkin spice like a good glass of off-dry Chenin Blanc. Bruised apple and pear, sweet cider with hints of beeswax, the refreshing acidity and sweet finish of 2009 Domaine Huet Vouvray ‘Clos du Bourg’ Moelleux ($42) is an amazing accompaniment to spiced pumpkin soup or even a pumpkin scone!
With a pumpkin spice dessert, such as a classic pumpkin pie with a flaky, buttery crust, a great dessert wine I like to pair is the 2009 Falchini Vin Santo del Chianti ($31). A blend of white grapes aged in a small barrel in the attic of the winery produces a sweet, slightly nutty dessert wine with notes of baking spices. The combination of a sweet attack, hints of allspice and subtle nuttiness, makes this an ideal wine for the flavors of fall.
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