Basics: How to Pair Wine with Pie
Fall is in full swing, and with that, pie season is, too. We’re excited to tuck into everything from all-American classics like apple and pumpkin pie to citrus-forward varieties like Key lime and lemon meringue pie. That’s not to mention underrated offerings like creamy peanut butter and chess pies. Being who we are, of course, we’ll be pairing every slice with a glass of wine.
To help uncover the best wine and pie pairings, we asked several sommeliers from across the globe to weigh in. They had a lot of thoughts on what makes a great one.
“Pie is all about generosity, creaminess and smoothness,” says Philippe Marques, chef sommelier at the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa in Champagne. “These are the characteristics you will look for in your wines, [choosing a] level of sweetness [to balance] the sweetness of the dessert.”
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Wine should be sweeter than the pie with which it’s paired, but there are some exceptions. “Pies like chess pie, which are very sweet, are sometimes better balanced with spice and acidity to not over sweeten your palate,” stresses Sara Jimenez of Somm In The City.
Additionally, when it comes to any fruit-flavored pie, Jimenez says it “helps to match the flavors of the fruit with the fruit flavors in the wine.” However, as with anything else, “don’t be afraid to try new things.” You may be pleasantly surprised by unexpected flavor and texture combinations.
With its smooth and creamy texture and a sweet-savory flavor profile dominated by warm spices, pumpkin pie is a time-honored classic. With this in mind, it only makes sense to pair it with one of the world’s most beloved wine varietals: Chardonnay.
“Chardonnay tends to see new oak and malolactic fermentation during the winemaking process, which imparts notes of baking spices and a velvet-like texture,” says Sean Haarberg, VIP hospitality and account manager at Trinitas Cellars at The Meritage Resort & Spa in Napa Valley. “The pairing accentuates each item’s savory decadence while expanding the flavor spectrum with notes of orchard and citrus fruits.”
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Key Lime Pie
Haarberg recommends pairing your Key lime pie—famous for its tangy flavor and creamy texture—with a sparkling brut rosè.
The result? “A refreshing citrus and red berry explosion framed by confectionery pastry notes,” he explains. “The term ‘brut’ denotes a dry wine, which is key, as the accompanying acidity will cut through and provide lift to the sweetness and fat of the Key lime pie.”
Lemon Meringue Pie
Lemon meringue pie has a light and airy texture courtesy of silky and citrusy custard and ultra-fluffy meringue. According to Bella Babbit, wine director at the NoMad London, nothing pairs better with it than “a richer style of Champagne—especially a Blanc de Noir.”
Per the pro, the creaminess of the Blanc de Noir—a white wine made with dark-skinned grapes—“really balances the tart flavors of the pie while still being able to stand up to the richness.”
With its sugary, juicy filling, blueberry pie requires a wine capable of balancing its ample sweetness.
“Choosing a wine with body and structure along with red fruit and just the right amount of tannins is essential,” says Jimenez. She recommends pairing the pie with a Cabernet Sauvignon with “dark currant and cherry tones.”
Crunchy and creamy, sweet and nutty, pecan pie features a unique combination of flavors and textures. According to Jimenez, it’s best enjoyed with a tall glass of Oloroso Sherry.
This dry wine, produced in Andalucia in southern Spain, has a nutty, spicy aroma and complex flavor profile, which includes notes of caramel and dried fruit. “The acidity in the Oloroso will help balance that true pecan pie sugary-sweetness,” she says. In addition, the pecans “pair nice[ly] with the wood, tobacco and balsamic notes in the wine.”
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Apple pie, with its sweet-tart filling amped up with cinnamon and other aromatic spices, is a match for Sauternes. This sweet, full-bodied white wine, named for the French region in which it’s produced, is made with grapes with an ultra-concentrated flavor due to Botrytis (a fungus affectionately known as “noble rot”).
The combo is especially effective with apple pies made with tart Granny Smith apples. “The sweetness of the wine balances the acidity and then is complemented by the spice and buttery pie crust,” says Jimenez.
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Peanut Butter Pie
Rich, creamy, and silky smooth, this pie features a decadent combination of peanut butter, cream cheese, sugar and, depending on the recipe, either a whipped topping or heavy cream.
When it comes to a just-right wine pairing, Marques can “only think of Madeira.” The wine has a rich, caramelized flavor that offers a unique combination of “sweetness, saltiness from the sea and a subtle bitterness [that] create[s] a great match with peanut butter.”
Most cherry pie recipes call for the addition of lemon juice, which confers a subtle tartness To cut through it, Jimenez recommends enjoying cherry pie alongside a glass of Beaujolais.
“You want to consider weight and mouthfeel—cherry pie is heavier with sweet and tart notes,” she says. In contrast, Beaujolais offers lightness along with fruity and floral notes.
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A quintessential Southern dessert, ooey-gooey chess pie has a sweet, custardy filling made with sugar, butter and eggs. Pair it with Gewürztraminer, a pink-skinned, slightly spicy white wine grape that’s produced all over the world, including Alsace (France), Pfalz (Germany), Yakima Valley (Washington State) and the Finger Lakes (New York).
“Its acidity will really help cut through those heavy, sweet, delicious pie layers,” says Jimenez. She’s especially partial to examples from the Finger Lakes, which offer a “balance of stone fruit and spice.”
Last Updated: October 12, 2023
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