Expert Advice For Picking The Best Wine To Pair With Pies

Savoring a slice of pie with a glass of wine can be highly satisfying. Like many great food and beverage duos, some pies simply taste better with the right vino. To learn more about this tantalizing topic, Mashed spoke with two sommeliers about several top-notch wine and pie pairings. Doreen Winkler is a consulting sommelier who has had the privilege of curating wine lists for restaurants throughout her career, including Mishik, a Japanese sushi restaurant in New York City.

Catherine Fallis, who also refers to herself as the grape goddess, is the Master Sommelier at Bright Cellars, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based wine subscription service — not to mention the fifth woman in history to earn the title of Master Sommelier. Whether your go-to pie is sweet or savory, eaten during the dessert course, or as an entrée, there likely exists a wine to wash it down with, according to a couple of oenophiles.

Enjoy peanut butter pie with Pedro Ximenéz sherry

Doreen Winkler regards peanut butter pie as an ideal companion for an aged, sweet, vintage Pedro Ximenéz sherry from Spain. The simultaneously gritty and smooth consistency of the peanut butter filling meshes with the juicy quality of the fortified wine. The Spanish sherry's profile often features hints of dried fruits like raisins and figs, which "elevate it to the next level." The sweetness of the sherry complements the slight saltiness of the peanut butter. At that, the wine's intricate aging process contributes to its concentrated essence, which contrasts beautifully with the pie's richness.

Furthermore, sherry made from Pedro Ximenéz grapes has caramelly undertones that add depth to PB pie. The wine acts as a counterpoint to the dessert's earthiness. Together, this duo highlights the indulgence of the creamy peanut butter pie as well as the sophisticated Pedro Ximenéz sherry's complexity.

Apple pie + Riesling = perfection

When both apple pie and German riesling are on the menu, you know your taste buds ... and stomach ... and liver ... are truly in for a ride. "This pairing will probably lead to eating more pie and drinking more riesling," Winkler tells Mashed. The key in this pairing, as the sommelier explains, lies in the all-American baked good and sweet (or dry, depending on the alcohol content) wine's corresponding characteristics. Riesling's notes of tart red apple and ripe apricot resonate with the caramelized, apple pie. To boot, the famed wine supplies a pleasant zest that cuts through the pie's crust and the fruity, cinnamon-spiced filling.

Moreover, the acidity of the riesling cleanses the palate after each bite of the pie. The wine's sweetness works well with the apple pie's sugar content, ensuring a serene tasting experience. The result is a flavorful synergy of food and drink.

Tucking into pumpkin pie? Pour a glass of dry Vouvray

Pumpkin pie, the Thanksgiving staple, and an off-dry Vouvray are yet another match made in heaven, as Winkler suggests. Vouvray, a region in the Loire Valley of France, is well-known for its production of superior white wines primarily made from Chenin Blanc grapes. One such variety of Vouvray possesses an off-dry profile with a touch of residual sugar, which harmonizes with pumpkin pie's fragrant spices. The wine's lighter texture also serves as an excellent counterpart to the pie's dense filling, generating a well-balanced sensory experience. The dashes of honeysuckle in the Vouvray amplify the pie's aroma, adding a floral dimension.

As Winkler describes, the hints of quince and green apple in an off-dry Vouvray augment the pumpkin's autumnal flavors. The minerality offers a refreshing palate cleanser between bites of the pie, which Winkler describes as "not very sweet," while ensuring a crisp, clean finish.

Indulge in chocolate pie with a sweet French red

Wine and chocolate? Name a better duo. If you're in the mood for chocolate pie, Winkler has a strong recommendation: "The most luxurious experience would be to pair it with Banyuls, a red dessert wine from the South of France." The lush French digestif — which is available in red, white, and rosé varieties — coats the mouth, resulting in a velvety glaze that precedes each slice of the decadent chocolate pie. The red variety, known for its notes of cassis, blueberry, dried fig, cocoa, caramel, and brown sugar, establishes a potpourri of flavors that intertwine seamlessly with the pie's chocolatey goodness.

The tinges of cassis and blueberry in Banyuls team up with the pie's chocolaty flavor. The dried fig notes, along with the caramel and brown sugar elements, enhance the sweetness without overpowering the faint bitterness. "And when the wine has some age," Winkler explains, "it can be insanely delicious." The pairing is a celebration that turns a timeless chocolate dessert into a sublimer treat.

Meat pies deserve wine, too

So, what if you don't necessarily want to wait until after supper time to enjoy a slice of pie? Pies, of course, aren't limited to the sweets table or the highly anticipated Thanksgiving dinner. "Meat pies are such great comfort foods and are prepared in so many ways around the world," Bright Cellars' Catherine Fallis shared with Mashed. Although there exist plenty of savory pie recipes you haven't tried before, the focus here is on the classic chicken pot pie.

Chicken pot pies are synonymous with warmth. Their soupy filling, made from a medley of chicken, vegetables, and a luscious sauce, falls in tune with what Fallis calls "a soft, light, and creamy white wine." An optimally chilled white wine's subtleties bring out the best parts of the dish. Feel like drinking and eating your wine? Adding it to the pie's sauce is one of several ways to upgrade homemade chicken pot pie. If you're a loyal member of Team Red Wine, Fallis recommends a full-bodied Garnacha from Spain to sip alongside chicken pot pie.

Dine on shepherd's pie with a light red wine

On the other hand, shepherd's pie, especially when made with ground lamb rather than beef, is a pure umami delight. Fallis understands that the wholesome pie — an all-time favorite of the late David Bowie, by the way — calls for a lighter red. And it makes sense, considering that red wine's mouth-puckering tannins offset shepherd's pie's richness. The versatile dish can accommodate a range of reds. As a matter of fact, some shepherd's pie recipes, including Gordon Ramsay's, even call for a splash of red wine. "Shepherd's pie — which is richer, spicier, and earthier if prepared with ground lamb rather than ground beef — is well-suited for either a lighter, earthier red," the expert explains.

Meanwhile, a "decadent, rich, and ripe" red, according to Fallis, also has the brawn to stand up to the pie's hearty flavors. In short, shepherd's pie's foundation of minced meat, mixed with seasoned vegetables and topped with a hefty blanket of mashed potatoes, provides a lovely canvas for various reds. This gives one the ability to cater to diners who seek elegance in their glass and on their plate as much as those who crave a somewhat more substantial spread. These thoughtfully chosen wine and pie pairings, endorsed by acclaimed sommeliers, have the power to enrich any occasion.