Dessert Wine Pairings for the Holidays

Sugar and spice: sweet wines for this season's desserts.

Thanksgiving conjures up familiar scents and flavors—the comforting aroma of pumpkin pie, the tartness of a warm cranberry crisp. When serving wines with desserts that feature ingredients of the season, options abound. For an indulgent ending to a memorable meal, though, remember one simple rule: select a wine at least as sweet as the dessert you are serving.

Pumpkin Pie and Late Harvest Gewürztraminer: No matter what the recipe variation, all good pumpkin pies have cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. "Gewürztraminer" literally means "spicy grape" in German, so it's a no-brainer to serve pumpkin pie with a late harvest Gewürz from Germany or the U.S., which enhances the pie's flavors and matches its creamy smoothness.

Apple Tart and Eiswein: Traditionally made from Riesling or Vidal grapes that have frozen on the vine before being pressed, Eiswein has an intense, clean grape flavor and bracing acidity. A slice of crisp apple tart and a cold glass of Eiswein from Canada is an ideal way to cap off a fall dinner.

Cranberry Crisp and Ruby Port: Cranberry-based desserts call for a wine that holds its own against the attractive tartness. With ample sugar, red berry flavors and refreshing acidity, ruby Port fits the bill. Slightly chill the wine to reduce the alcohol sensation, or enjoy it at room temperature to warm you up on a cool evening.

Pecan Pie and Tawny Port: A fall favorite, especially in the South, and super sweet by design, pecan pie's perfect match is the gorgeous golden tan color and complex caramel and nutty flavors of a tawny Port. Sweet but not cloying, Tawny port makes you crave another sliver of that decadent creation.

Kelly Magyarics is a wine writer and educator in the Metro D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, which is Her last contribution to Wine Enthusiast was an article on pairing wines with junk foods.

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