The Pumpkin Pie Predicament

I’m sure you’re familiar with the observation, “Life is short; eat dessert first.”

It has been credited to Red Hat Society founder Sue Ellen Cooper, to actress Katherine Hepburn, and even to Mark Twain. I don’t know who really deserves the credit, but I definitely agree with the sentiment.

And in that spirit, let’s tackle a deliciously sweet topic: the perils of pairing wine with pumpkin pie.

Truthfully, almost all desserts present a challenge when it comes to wine pairing, all related to sweetness. One reason the seemingly unlikely pairing of dark chocolate and Cabernet Sauvignon works is because the dark chocolate—unlike milk chocolate—is not particularly sweet.

The best guideline to follow is to make sure that the dessert is no sweeter than the wine. When the dessert is sweeter, it almost always results in the wine seeming sour in comparison.

With pumpkin pie—the traditional Thanksgiving dessert in the Johnson household—there’s more involved than just the fruit of the pumpkin. One must also consider the spices used, ranging from nutmeg to cinnamon, and from cloves to ginger. All contribute to making the pie more enticing…and the wine pairing more challenging.

If there were a “go-to” choice to accompany pumpkin pie among readily available wines, it would be the Muscat family of bottlings. Options include Muscat Canelli from California, the sweet Muscat wines of Australia (often referred to as “stickies”), and the semi-sparkling Moscato d’Asti of Italy.

Other options include “Late Harvest” wines made from Riesling or Gewurtztraminer grapes, cream Sherry (even more yummy when the pie is served with vanilla ice cream or real whipped cream), and the Hungarian dessert wine known as Tokaji Aszu.

If you don’t have any of these wines on hand, enjoy the pie separately with water or coffee, and then after cleansing your palate, return to whatever wine you were drinking before dessert.

Every Thanksgiving meal should end with a gratitude-filled toast involving good wine—sweet or otherwise.

Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes
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