Perfect Pie Pairings

Pie is important. Love it. Know it. Eat it. I have been obsessed with making pie for quite some time. Because of this obsession, along with a friend who simply loves to eat pie, and another friend I met at a pie contest (obsession kills, but also makes you friends in the right places, and that friend won in his category), we used to throw multiple pie parties a year. The pie contest friend hosted (and made pies), the pie lover handled logistics (and made sangria and Chex mix), and I made pies. Preferably at least one savory and one sweet. Or two of each, pending RSVPs. Those parties started with four people (including the logistics/sangria friend) who wanted me to teach them to make pie. Which I did, until after a few of these events, it was evident they also just wanted to eat my pie. Story of my life. At that point, we brought in the third co-host (the pie contest winner), and it blew up from there. Whether for learning about or eating, all these parties are executed under the love of pie. Do let the love in. My fascination with wine started to blossom around the time these parties flourished, which makes sense since our co-host/pie contest winner also worked for a rather big wine contest and usually had 100+ bottles (judge swag) for us to choose from for our parties. Including the time he let me open the Armand de Brignac Ace of Spades Rosé Champagne for my birthday. It was no sweat for him; his drink is a Manhattan with orange bitters. Back to pie. Thanksgiving is essentially the biggest pie party of all. So, let’s figure out what wines you should pair with your pie. The pie I’m pairing is the one I call MY PIE. I know it isn’t necessarily a traditional pick for anyone, but it’s the one I’ve perfected over time and make year after year. And whoever tastes it asks me to make it again. APPLE-CRANBERRY STREUSEL AKA MY PIE It’s a unicorn pie. The streusel could render it too sweet and rich, but I make a shortening crust (YES other pies are better with butter crusts, but this pie benefits from a less rich and mildly salty crisp crust). The cranberries lend tartness, and I use a goodly amount of citrus in the filling in addition to cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger, if I’m feeling it. I wanted a wine to accentuate the red fruit nature of the cranberries while holding its own against all the spices. I’m going with W. & J. Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port as it brings the fruit and has a sturdiness that stands up to the cranberry’s acidic punch and the streusel’s sugar blast. It has a certain confidence that matches the pie. It isn’t the sweetest of ports and it has an earthy nature to it which I think contrasts nicely with the pie. I get red currant and blackberry and spices but not too much. Perfect pairing for my perfect pie. PUMPKIN Every autumn I want to not love pumpkin spice stuff. So much that when I had a blog, I had a pumpkin week IN SPRING because I love pumpkin, but I didn’t want to be, I dunno, on trend come autumn? It’s my goth tendencies in the same vein as I don’t wear as much black around Halloween lest people think I’m part of the zeitgeist. Anyway. I friggin’ love pumpkin pie. I wanted something that would be fun with all the spices in it and came up with late harvest Gewurtz. And what a Gewurzt I found. The 2017 Husch Vineyards Late Harvest Gewurztraminer is ridiculously lovely. Something about the spice and lift of pumpkin stands up to the complexity of a gewurztraminer; roses and lychees may not at first blush sound like a match for pumpkin pie but think of the spices involved: cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, allspice, perhaps some ginger to boot? And this particular wine is heavier on the ginger, lychee and dried apricot than roses. This may actually be my favorite of all the pairings. SWEET POTATO PIE I feel that sweet potato pie toes a line between elegance and earth. Elegant earth. Honestly I should preface this pairing with saying I haven’t experienced that many aged Sauternes, but to me they are the height of elegance. And at the same time there’s this almost savory note to them, particularly with age. Mineral and mushroom and also acid and fruit; it all plays handsomely with a sweet potato pie’s spices and earth. The best I ever had was 1980 Chateau de Fargues , which was honestly life-changing juice. Light but heavy. Sweet but somehow it transcends the sugar. Honeysuckle and green things. Orange rind and nuts. Earth and elegance. Sauternes and sweet potato pie should get married. APPLE PIE For a single fruit dessert, apple pie has a lot to work with. There are the apples, of course, plus usually cinnamon and nutmeg, plus some lemon juice if you are apple savvy. In order to echo apple notes, Chenin Blanc came to mind, in the sweet form of moelleux Vouvray. Moelleux translates to soft, and in this case also designates a sweeter rendition. I’ve been sipping 2018 Domaine du Petit Coteau Moelleux Vouvray . It is lightly sweet, but not overly, which actually is cool if you use granny smiths in your pie. It tastes of spiced apples, and hints of quince and persimmon play with white roses and ginger and dare I say honeycomb? I do. Much like apple pie, there is a LOT going on once you get into it. PECAN PIE Pecan pie is SO sweet, and the nuts are…nutty. And toasty. I wanted to echo all nutty-ness (nuts deserve echoing) so went with a Rivesaltes with a touch of age on it. There are a variety of Rivesaltes styles pending age and grapes, but I chose one of Grenache Blanc, fermentation stopped with addition of wine alcohol, aged minimum 6 years in seasoned oak barrels: Terrasous Rivesaltes Ambré Hors d’Age 6 ans . There’s a refreshing citrus nature that really takes you out of pecan pie heavy, but I get a nutty echo in the form of hazelnuts, not pecans. Which is fun and tasty. Maybe next time you make a pecan pie you should add hazelnut. Plus, there is something in this that calls to mind golden raisins, orange peel, and graham crackers, and I am not sure what there is in that that makes it flow with pecan pie, but it does. I would love to announce a shower pie wine. I would. Actually I can but only if you are going to, say, pour yourself a little sip, drink in the mist, then dry off and finish the glass with pie. For the love of Bacchus please don’t take pie in the shower. Yes, I’ve heard that eating an orange in the shower is a thing some enjoy (let the juices flow!), but pie strikes me as a plumbing disaster. Anyway, what would I take? Sauternes. Obviously. The late harvest Gewurztraminer was a runner up, but I must confess Sauternes is a unicorn wine, perfect in any situation. Especially a pie one. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: Finding Pleasure in Puglia Black Cat Wines, Black Cat Vineyards Old World vs. New World: Pinot Grigio/Gris Santa Cruz: Something New Back to School Wines 101 For Everyone Who Texts Me: Trader Joe’s Picks, You’re Welcome You can also listen to Ellen's podcast , The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! Ellie Anest Wine Situation Final Five! Morét Brealynn

Husch Vineyards

Late Harvest Gewürztraminer 2017

This is good by itself but paid with pumpkin pie and…it’s a dog chasing it’s tail situation. The pie is made all the sweeter and ginger spice-y (sans being baby, sporty or scary but maybe posh) by the wine. Then the sweetness of the wine pleads for a nibble of somewhat earthy pumpkin and the pumpkin says “be my baby!” (But not baby spice) to the wine so you gotta put some wine in your mouth so the pumpkin won’t feel so alone (pie has feelings) and so on and so forth. In terms of flavor here inddition to spice yes, I get those lychee notes but also apricot jam (which makes me wonder if next time I make a pumpkin pie I should add a bit of apricot jam to the crust before pouring the pumpkin in). And despite its turned up sweetness it has acid that keeps my mouth watering. I DID not know Gewurtz could do that. — 2 years ago

Trixie, Serge and 15 others liked this

Château de Fargues

Sauternes Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc Blend 1980

Whaaaaaaa?! This changed my mind and threw me for a loop for any aged sweet wine going forward. It was so damn fresh yet deep but light but heavy but...but...I do not even know but what a goddamn treat. We drank on the podcast and all agreed it may just be the most extraordinary thing yet. Honeysuckle green things but honey and honeysuckle and orange rind and roasted nut but it is all mellow af and good lord this wine. Never looking at Sauternes quite the same. It was perfect. Oh and then we tossed some cheese into the mix. Explosion of expectations and everything. — 4 years ago

Severn, Mark and 21 others liked this
Shawn Thompson

Shawn Thompson

Amazing!! Great review 👍🏻🍷
Ellen Clifford

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@Shawn Thompson thanks!! This wine was indeed a revelation!

Domaine du Petit Coteau

L'Étoile Moelleux Vouvray Chenin Blanc 2018

Pleasantly refreshing given the sugarload which I like to think people say about me when I’m overly excited about something. Still there is something white rose-y, persimmon-adjacent, and honeycomb funky going on. Very linear despite all its complexity like a well-made apple pie—down to earth but there’s more there than the sum of its parts. — 2 years ago

Josh, Trixie and 16 others liked this


Rivesaltes Ambré Hors d'Âge 6 Ans Vin Doux Naturel Grenache Blend

At risk of sounding weird, which obvi I’m gonna take because I am weird, this wine feels like an after school snack. So much golden raisins, dried orange peel and graham cracker. In elementary school I always hated golden raisins and got embarrassed in I ended up with raisins of any sort in my lunch because it seemed to scream NERD (and my friend Eliza told me they reminded her of cockroaches). Well F*#k peer pressure to be cool, which includes both snacking on dried fruits and adoring sweet wine. It’s not unctuous but is rich but not cloying. It does have those dried fruit and graham cracker after school notes plus some citrus and mayhaps there’s even a hazelnut and acacia blossom nearby? Pairs with mincemeat pie. — 2 years ago

A, Severn and 6 others liked this

W. & J. Graham's

Six Grapes Reserve Porto Blend

This wine throws parties that go late but not too late full of characters but polite ones and also invites you to dinners with other intellectuals that go late and are rich but get deep and down to life on earth. Which is to say it hints at decadence but is cool with just having like, a real deep conversation on literature. Full of blackberry and cassis fruit but with baking spices and something that says mud delicious mud. Vibing with tannins that aren’t knitted in and a certain element that satisfies but leaves you unsatisfied so you take another sip and it may be on purpose to remind you you are mortal. — 2 years ago

Bob, Severn and 12 others liked this


Fine review!🍷
Ellen Clifford

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@Trixie thank you m’lady!