I know I’m going against popular opinion here, but I don’t love pumpkin. I can appreciate the craft behind a good, homemade pumpkin pie but for some reason I’ve never really enjoyed the taste. However, I realize I’m in the minority here, given that pumpkin spice season starts at the end of August now and pumpkin spice is a flavor for basically everything from food to drinks to air fresheners. So, in honor of fall, I am waving the white flag and showing a little love to pumpkin.
Before we get too into wine and food pairings, which I know is what you’re here for, I think it’s important to know a little about the long history of pumpkin. Even if I’m not a fan of the taste, I can appreciate it’s place in the world. Here are a few fun facts about the fruit (yes, it’s really a fruit!)
- Pumpkins can grow on every continent except Antarctica, so you could theoretically eat pumpkin pie almost anywhere in the world.
- Pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamin A and are very low calorie, so pumpkin pie is practically a healthy dessert (or breakfast, if that’s how you roll).
- The Guinness world record for the largest pumpkin pie made is held by the New Bremen Giant Pumpkin Growers in New Bremen, Ohio. The pie was 20 feet in diameter and weighed 3,699 pounds.
- There is reason to believe pumpkin pie was not served at the second Thanksgiving, not the first. Also, early American colonists made pumpkin pie, but it didn’t resemble what we call pumpkin pie today. A version similar to the modern one was created in 1796. Pumpkins were originally used for the crust of the pie, not the filling.
- If it weren’t for Cinderella, you might be eating pepon pie or gros melon The fairy tale is credited with being the first time the round, orange squash was referred to as a pumpkin.
Now that we have the history lesson out of the way, let’s talk about food pairings. In the U.S., pumpkin is most commonly used as a dessert or breakfast- pumpkin pie, pumpkin bars, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pancakes, etc. In many other countries, pumpkin is used in more savory foods, like soup, curry, chili, and stir fry. This is a time when the spices and the texture are really important to the wine pairing since you’re working with the same basic food. If it’s a heavily spiced dish with a lot of meat and chunky vegetables in it, a red wine, like Syrah or Nebbiolo might be the way to go. For a tangy stir fry or spicy curry, try a dry white.
On the dessert side, I like to do a slightly sweet but highly acidic wine like an off-dry Riesling. Since pumpkin desserts tend to be pretty sweet, rich, and creamy, the Riesling is an easy choice since it has a touch of sweetness to pair with the sweeter dessert but the acidity balances the richness of the dessert. For my palate, lower acid sweet wines are too cloying with pumpkin desserts.
What do you think? Do you exclusively have sweet wines with pumpkin dishes or do you like to branch out?