As the crispness of fall hits the air, our palates may enjoy wine with some warming notes that won’t overpower us. Autumn is perfect for some lighter and medium-bodied reds and a rich white or two–whatever feels warm and cozy. Here are a few to try.

1. Pinot Noir

Pinot Noirs are historically tough for me; while I can happily drink almost any Cabernet whether it $7 or $100, I have a harder time finding Pinots that hit the spot. It’s such a finicky grape and tastes wildly different depending on where it’s grown. For example, French Burgundy Pinot Noir is known for being more elegant and delicate; Pacific Northwest wines tend to be earthier with deeper and darker berry notes; New Zealand Pinots are drier and lighter; California wines often have more cherry and blackberry flavors.

The right Pinot Noir with notes of berries and hints of fall spices like cinnamon or cloves can be delicious on its own or paired with fall classics—squashes, roasted chicken or veggies, soups, and stews. It’s a perfect Thanksgiving wine that pairs well with everything on the traditional table.

Suggestions include Four Graces Willamette Valley (available at Costco too), Lioco, Fess Parker, and La Belle Angele

Pair with books that bring us some persnickety or difficult characters, such as Love Ad Lib by Evie Alexander (Henry is so lovable yet also a bit tightly wound), Every Duke Has His Day by Suzanne Enoch (Michael, the ever-so-fastidious scientist), Book Lovers by Emily Henry (Nora is a control freak but also so loving and misunderstood), and From Lukov With Love (High-maintenance Jasmine).

2. Grenache/Garnacha

One of my favorite wines, Grenache (Garnacha in Spain) packs a delicious punch and is often blended with other reds for that reason. Grown mostly in Spain and France, Grenache is usually dry and medium-bodied with rich berry flavors along with various herbs and spices. It pairs beautifully with so many flavorful fall dishes—casual and fancy alike—grilled or smoked meats, anything Bolognese, goulash, curry, and even things like shepherd’s pie. Rich flavors, whether sweet or spicy, can do well with Grenache, but it helps to avoid more bland or super light (e.g. citrus-based) foods.

I have a few favorite Grenaches. First on the list if Breca Garnacha, which is a great value at around $19 and was given to me at a wine tasting by the kindest man who knew his way around Spanish wines! Other favorites include Comando G La Bruja de Rozas (especially the “village” wine), Esteban Martin Garnacha Syrah (incredible value at $10), and Palacios Remondo La Montesa (another value at $10 at Costco).

Pair your favorite Grenache with books that portray bold and spicy characters, such as The Brazen Bluestocking by Tracy Sumner (Hildy kicks a** in Regency England), Hyacinth by Minerva Spencer (Hyacinth disguises herself as a boy, crushes everyone at cards, and is a spicy bedroom girl), Funny Feelings by Tarah DeWitt (Farley is a hilarious stand-up comedian), It Happened One Fight by Maureen Lee Lenker (two glamorous 1930s Hollywood stars), Forever Your Earl by Eva Leigh (Eleanor is a bold bada**), and A Rulebook for Restless Rogues by Jess Everlee (talk about wild and bold characters).

3. Viognier

Though fall usually equals red wine, maybe you want to hold onto those whites (or maybe it’s still hot where you live, like me). Viognier is typically full-bodied and expressive, and is produced in various styles—some are lively and fresh while others are more creamy. It tends to have light fruit flavors such as citrus, peach, and apricot, and is pretty versatile for serving as it can pair nicely with fish and chicken but also handle richer dishes. Unoaked Viogniers are lighter while the oaked Viogniers are more full-bodied. If you’re looking for full-bodied, usually the French wines will be up your alley, while the South American wines are likely to be lighter and drier.

Some popular Viogniers include the Miner Paso Robles 2020 (described as complex and aromatic, stainless steel fermentation, with vibrant tropical and stone fruit characteristics), Cayuse 2015, Lismore 2018 and 2020, and Elephant Hill Viognier.

Pair a glass of Viognier with books that have a range of characters, from lively and fruity to deep and complex, such as Happy Place by Emily Henry (group of friends with many fun personalities), Loathe to Love You by Ali Hazelwood (three novellas with great characters), and Lies and Other Love Languages by Sonali Dev (lots of depth and variety to the characters).

4. Sémillon

Another white that hits the spot for fall wines is the full-bodied Sémillon, which is primarily grown in France’s Bordeaux region and often blended with Sauvignon Blanc and other grapes. It’s known for giving your palate a waxy sensation, and often shows notes of apples and pears, with the occasional herb or honey flavors emerging. It’s a little richer than a Sauvignon Blanc and transitions well into fall flavors. And, best yet, it’s a nice value—you get a lot for your money.  

Highly-rated Semillons include Chateau Coutet (93 points, $53), Chateau Climens (94 points, $108), Tyrell’s Belford Semillon (95 points, $27), Amavi Cellars (92 points, $25).

Pair with books set in France (at least partially), such as French Holiday by Sarah Ready, A Month in Provence by Gillian Harvey, Twenty-One Nights in Paris by Leonie Mack, The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley, and The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary.

5. Tempranillo

I recently discovered how delicious a glass of Tempranillo can be, with its deep cherry, plum and fig flavors and hints of the most wonderful leather, tobacco, cedar, and dill—a delectable balance of fruitiness and earthiness. Tempranillo is grown mostly in Spain, and the wines range from a medium to full-bodied, depending on winemaking technique, and high tannin if you buy straight-up Tempranillo rather than a blend. It’s often blended with Grenache and, like Cabernet, is the dominant grape in the blend.

Tempranillo’s savory qualities make it a nice pairing for a variety of foods including Italian tomato-based sauces, steak, lamb, burgers, and even Mexican food. You’ll probably want a variety that was aged at least a year in oak. Favorites include Baron de Ley (90 points, $20), Matarromera 2018 Crianza (92 points, $35), and Hacienda Monasterio 2019 Cosecha (91 points, $62).

Pair with books that have some versatile or multi-talented characters such as How to Kiss Your Enemy by Jenny Proctor (Tatum is a killer chef and master organizer along with other talents), Well Traveled by Jen DeLuca (Lulu is not only a bada** lawyer but also adapts to become skilled in all things Renaissance faire), and Flirting With Forever (Dex is a talented artist and amazing father, among other things).