North Texas Wine Enthusiasts Message Board › wines for Thanksgiving dessert
Little Elm, TX
7 wines perfect for Thanksgiving desserts
10:23 PM CST on Tuesday, November 23, 2010
After all the work that goes into the Thanksgiving dinner, it's a shame to dash through dessert.
With a leisurely, festive finale in mind, the wine panel tracked down dessert wines that can complement both pumpkin and pecan pies. The right dessert wine enhances the pies and encourages lingering at the table.
We bought a fairly standard pumpkin pie from Whole Foods Market. The pecan pie is homemade, and it's designed to be less sweet than the traditional version. It has a touch of molasses, for a deeper, less cloying flavor, and more pecans, for a better balance of gooey sweetness and meaty nuts.
We sampled 16 wines in a wide range of styles, from a light and spritzy Moscato d'Asti to a heavy, raisiny-sweet sherry. Our seven picks fell in the broad midsection of this range and include ports, sherries, a Madeira and a Muscat, and there's one from Texas.
Most of our selections are high in alcohol (19 percent to 20 percent alcohol by volume).
Some of the wines we chose handled both pies nicely; since many showed a stronger connection with one over the other, we designated a top match for each pie.
Tina Danze is a Dallas freelance writer. She writes about the wine panel on the last Wednesday of every month.
Leon Cikota, vice president, fine wines, Republic National Distributing Co.
•George Howald, Serendipity Wine Imports
•Courtney Luscher, co-owner, wine director and general manager, The Grape
•James Tidwell, certified wine educator and master sommelier at Café on the Green, the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas in Las Colinas
Cathy Barber, Taste editor
Tina Danze, freelance writer
Fonseca 10 Year Old Aged Tawny Port, Portugal
$29.99; select Centennial, Big Daddy's, Goody Goody, Majestic and Sigel's stores; Pogo's
This easy-drinking port showed elegant coffee and toffee notes. Although it lacked the weight of our top picks, its flavors complemented the pies. "I like the rich caramel finish on this wine," panelist Courtney Luscher said. "And this is going to sound weird: I really like it with the crust." Leon Cikota called it "a crowd-pleaser with pedigree" and "a delicious, versatile wine."
Sandeman Fine Rich Madeira, Portugal
$18.99; PK's Fine Wine and Spirits, Midway and Mockingbird locations; select Centennial and Majestic stores
This wine's rich, nutty flavor made it a good match for both pies. "It's not a shy wine. It holds up well to the desserts," George Howald said. Cikota liked the wine's vibrancy when sipped with the pumpkin pie. "It's got an earthiness, which you'd expect of Madeira, that enhances the pumpkin flavor," he said, adding that with the pecan, "you get a pronounced orange-peel finish." James Tidwell liked the wine mostly for its consistent delivery of flavor, from initial taste to the finish.
Sandeman Royal Corregidor Rich Old Oloroso Sherry, Aged 20 Years
$24.99 for a 500-ml bottle; Big Daddy's on Northwest Highway and select Centennial and Sigel's stores
This style of sherry isn't as heavy and sweet as Pedro Ximenez (a style we tried that overwhelmed the pies). This oloroso showed a nice balance of complexity and sweetness. "It's smooth and rich," Tidwell said. "It highlights the nuttiness of the pecan pie and the crust of the pumpkin pie." Luscher liked the wine better with the pumpkin. "You can taste the pie throughout – it's not overpowered by the wine," she said. Howald added that this was one of the few wines that proved more than just a complement to the pies. "There's an enhancement of both the food and the wine with this pairing."
Lustau East India Solera Sherry, Spain
(Panel Pick for pecan pie) $27.99; select Centennial, Majestic, Goody Goody and PK's Fine Wines and Liquor stores; King's Liquor
One of two oloroso sherries selected, this one brought out the pleasant molasses flavor in the pecan pie, and made for our favorite pairing. "It's fine with the pumpkin, but it's a great match for the pecan pie," Tidwell said. Cikota liked the wine's earthy quality, which "extends the flavors" of the pecan pie. "It's fascinating to taste," Howald said. Although he felt that on its own the wine "may not be for everyone," he'd urge his guests to be adventurous and taste it with the pecan pie.
2000 Warre's Late Bottled Vintage Porto, Portugal
(Panel Pick for pumpkin pie) $27.99; select Goody Goody, Centennial and PK's Fine Wine and Liquor stores; Big Daddy's; Fossil Creek Liquor; Hampton Beverages; Chicotsky's in Fort Worth; Paradise Liquors; American Spirits
Vintage ports can be pricey, but Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) ports such as this one offer similar flavor and character at an affordable price. "I'm surprised – I like it better with the pumpkin than with the pecan," Cikota said. "The sweet fruit of the Porto complements the sweet fruit of the pumpkin pie," Tidwell said. Howald liked the "sense of elegance" that the wine brought to the pies. "The dessert has more impact with this wine," he said.
Messina Hof Ebony Ports of Call, Texas
$16.98; select Tom Thumb supermarkets, Dallas Central Market, World Market on Oak Lawn, Duncan's Liquor, Good Spirits
This wine isn't a port; it's a lighter, portlike, lower-alcohol dessert wine, with dried cherry and chocolate flavors. It's also the only wine we selected that's sold in a supermarket – as well as the only domestic wine selected. "The cherry flavors seem to highlight the pecans," Howald said. Cikota liked the wine's refreshing quality. "It's a simple, nice wine. The brightness of the fruit complements the spice in the pumpkin pie. It's as if it was an extra topping on the pie." Tidwell called it "an overtly fruity wine," and noted that "the alcohol doesn't stand out." A good choice if you want to go Texan, it's the lowest-alcohol wine we selected, at 16 percent.
Campbell's Rutherglen Muscat, Australia
$17.99 for a 375-ml bottle; Sigel's, Virginia Wine Store in McKinney, Chicotsky's in Fort Worth
This versatile dessert wine's caramel, orange and spicy vanilla flavors complemented both the pumpkin and the pecan pies. "The wine has a complexity that works with both desserts, and enough body to stand up to their richness," Tidwell said. Howald liked the easy transition going back and forth between the wine and the pies. "There's even a little vanilla between bites," he said. Cikota liked that the wine's weight and roundness matched that of the desserts. At 17 percent alcohol, this wine had the second lowest alcohol content of our seven picks.