Butternut squash is the quintessential produce of fall and winter. Rich and smooth, it’s akin to sweet potato, though less dense in texture, and pumpkin, which can be watery by comparison. It’s also, without question, the perfect partner for the spices of the season: cinnamon, clove, various curry blends, allspice, ginger and nutmeg.
Equally suited for sweet or savory preparations, it’s luscious in desserts (it makes an even better “pumpkin” pie), soups, salads, gratins or just mashed alongside a hearty roast.
As its name suggests, butternut squash has a buttery quality. Combined with its brown-sugar sweetness, it’s reminiscent of butterscotch. Well-toasted American oak can impart this flavor, so look for an oak-aged Chardonnay, preferably from the U.S. Its rich tones of butter and caramel are offset by bright citrus notes.
Again, butternut’s subtle nutty character is right there in the name. It’s why dishes that feature it often go so well with nuts, as well as nut liqueurs like Frangelico and Amaretto. Skin-contact white wines have nutty notes and honeyed spice that marries well with butternut. They match in color, too.
Like other winter squashes and root vegetables, butternut has a pronounced earthiness that helps offset its sweetness. Commonly grown in Piedmont and less celebrated than the region’s Nebbiolo-based wines, Grignolino is unabashedly earthy and spicy, with bright red fruit. It’s a great choice to bring out butternut’s more complex savory side.
Butternut squash has a silky texture and flavor that can also recall butter or fresh cream. Try warm-climate Sémillon from South America, South Africa or California, ideally with some oak. With flavors of salted butter and beeswax, it’s a nicely weighty alternative to Chardonnay.