Love it or hate it, pumpkin spice season is upon us. Everywhere we turn, there are pumpkin beers, pumpkin lattes, and even pumpkin spice vodka or pumpkin spice-flavored Baileys Irish Cream. For wine drinkers who secretly (or publicly) enjoy a Starbucks PSL from time to time, there are plenty of wines with similar flavor profiles. I’m not talking about a wine infused with pumpkin spice (although, yes, that does exist). Several excellent wines naturally contain subtle flavors also present in pumpkin spice beverages and snacks.
While “notes of pumpkin” isn’t a frequent tasting note for wine, it isn’t for most pumpkin spice-flavored beverages, either. That’s because most products marketed as “pumpkin spice” don’t actually contain pumpkin. Rather, they feature a blend of sweet and savory spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, and allspice. Sound familiar to wine tasters? This is because all of these aromas and flavors are found in some of the world’s top wines, either from the grape variety itself or barrel-aging in new oak.
If you’re ready to be the classiest pumpkin spice lover around, pick up one of these six wines and start sniffing out those familiar fall aromas. From dry to sweet, white to red, there’s a pumpkin-spice-reminiscent wine for every PSL lover (or hater).
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This white grape, found most often in Alsace but also in Germany and Italy, is as fun to taste as it is to pronounce. Even value-driven examples have incredibly complex aromas. In addition to floral qualities, the grape is known for its distinctive ginger spice, along with cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. Botrytized and aged versions heighten these aromas and flavors even more.
Believe it or not, aged white Burgundy holds many of the flavors that pumpkin spice fans seek. These Chardonnays, particularly from richer villages like Meursault, often have vanilla and baking spices in youth that develop into layered cinnamon, toasted nut, caramel, and honey aromas over time.
The Tempranillo-based wines of Rioja are built for long aging, both in and out of the barrel. Reserva and Gran Reserva versions are aged for an extended period of time in new American oak, suggesting the more exotic and lush side of pumpkin spice, and as wines are aged for even longer in bottle, slow oxidation adds a savory, nutty element to the flavor profile.
The Syrah/Shiraz grape tends to have spicy notes on its own, but in Australia’s hot regions like the Barossa Valley, all of those flavors are concentrated. Combined with plentiful new American or French oak, Australian Shiraz tends to have rich, exotic sweet and savory spices, along with plenty of powerful fruit veering toward the jammy side of the spectrum.
California Pinot Noir
Classic, high-quality examples of California Pinot Noir, particularly from Sonoma’s Russian River Valley, use high-quality, new French oak. This results in concentrated cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and other baking spice flavors married with ripe fruit, like a warm, soft blanket.
The luxuriously sweet Sauternes will certainly set you back more than your average PSL, but it’s absolutely worth it. Along with classic flavors like honeysuckle and orange blossom, Sauternes often has notes of ginger, baking spices, and saffron due to both new French oak and the Botrytis cinerea fungus that attacks these grapes. Those who generally steer clear of sweet beverages need not be afraid; the searing acidity of Sauternes balances out the residual sugar.