Christmas fruitcake: impossible food-wine pairing?!?

christmas_fruitcakeWriting on, Sara Dickerman wonders why fruitcake remains so unpopular. She points out that it’s rare among cakes to be aged (intentionally), aided by boozy fortification. And then she throws down the oven mitt with this challenge:

They are heavy, indeed, but that is OK: Fruitcake looks best in thinly sliced cross sections. [See image at right from–ed.] Studded with fruit and nuts, it reminds me of salami’s piebald patterns of fat and peppercorns. Like salami, too, I think fruitcake tastes swell alongside slivers of nice old cheddar or parmesan. In, fact, I’d argue that fruitcake, with its aging and its complexity, is essentially the charcuterie of the baking world. If that’s not a way to get some traction among today’s foodies, I don’t know what is.

Oooh, charcuterie! Well, we should be able to pair that with wine–except for the rum, apricots, golden raisins, kalamata figs, coconut, and dates. So which wine with you pair with fruitcake? Or is it impossible?!?

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27 Responses to “Christmas fruitcake: impossible food-wine pairing?!?”

  1. Nothing else than a Vintage Port.

  2. We tackled this very subject last week in the heartland.
    The pairing (Villa Wolf gewurz) worked pretty well, but no new converts to this odd seasonal dish were forged.

  3. Port wine, a Galician tostado, a sweet Monastrell, a fortified Tannat, a German Riesling Kabinett or Spatslese, or most beautifully an aged rum or cognac (cognac is wine at is origin).

  4. Ick.

    Not the fruit cake. I can do that. But wine with it? Sweet wine with it?


    Time to bring out the espresso.

  5. My solution is a bit of a cheat. Forget the fruitcake on your plate and go for fruitcake in your glass. Substitute a small glass of an Australian sticky or a PX from Spain. Chances are you’ll get all the aromas and flavors of the best fruitcakes and without the risk of breaking a tooth on a stray pecan shell. Cheers.

  6. I’d throw a late harvest Zin at it!

  7. Pinot Meunier, or perhaps Cru Beaujolais.

  8. Thanks for the thoughts! Here are some of the reactions from Twitter:

    jamiegoode: @drvino That’s what Pedro Ximenez is for!

    jmolesworth1: @drvino Oh, that’s an easy one – Madeira…or a mulled wine…

    tampawinewoman: @drvino can think of all kinds of lovely sticky sweets from Australia for this-drink wine/ditch fruitcake

    DuvaultBlochet: @drvino Madeira (Bual or Malmsey) or Tawny Port!!

    FrankWine: @drvino I think a more raisiny old port. Though a Sauternes w/good acidity might cut thru the cloying sweetness.

    winegenie: @jmolesworth1 @drvino – absolutely right on the Madeira. Malmsey preferred.

    karrayertawines: @drvino I would have a liqueur frontignac with fruit cake…..

    drvino: @jmolesworth1 what’s your preferred mulled wine recipe? I have yet to be convinced by it.

    jmolesworth1: @drvino No specific recipe – have used packets of mulling spices before that do ok. It’s not my fav, prefer warm cider with a cinnamon stick

    LENNDEVOURS: @drvino @jmolesworth1 Mulled wine? Come on…don’t do that to your wine.

    sgoodwin: @drvino How about a Chinato from Piemonte? That’s what I’m planning to serve after xmas dinner.

    HowardGGoldberg: @drvino Gallon of cider (a $4.50 bargain) from Samascott Orchards, in Kinderhook, plus cinnamon stick: delish. A quasi-Meritage apple blend.

    forknbottle: @jmolesworth1 @LENNDEVOURS @drvino I always thought it was all about the aroma it fills the house with anyway… Who actually drinks it?

    HowardGGoldberg: @drvino@jamiegoode On Sinai, God gave Moses the recipe for Pedro Ximénez so that the Jewish people could pour it on matzo brei at breakfast.

    Follow along!

  9. Some aged pomerol taste like fruitcake to me. So why not…?


  10. Whatever you drink, this is the best recipe


    1 cup water
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 cup sugar
    1 cup brown sugar
    4 large eggs
    1 tsp. lemon juice
    2 cups dried fruit
    1 cup nuts
    1 tsp. baking soda
    1 gallon whiskey

    Sample the whiskey to check for quality. Take a large bowl. Check the whiskey again to be sure that it is of the highest quality. Pour 1 level cup and drink. Repeat.

    Turn on electric mixer, beat 1 cup butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add 1 teaspoon sugar and beat again. Make sure the whiskey is still okay. Cry another cup.

    Turn off the mixer. Break two legs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaters, pry it loose with a drewscriver.

    Sample the whiskey to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift 2 cups of salt. Or something. Who cares. Check the whiskey.

    Now sift lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Spoon. Of sugar or something. Whatever you can find.

    Grease the oven.

    Turn the cake tin to 350 degrees. Don’t forget to beat off the turner. Throw the bowl out the window. Check the whiskey again.

    Go to bed.

    Who in the hell likes fruitcake anyway?

  11. Easy one – Madeira, but search out some old Rivesaltes, which are a bit of a rarety but worth trying.

  12. Hmmmm . . . . A slice of rich Fruit Cake with a glass of Morris Old Premium Liqueur Muscat from Rutherglen, Victoria, Australia – a marriage made in Heaven!

  13. Hi Tyler – a realy good Moscato d’Asti works well as it’s sweet but refreshing and helps to lift the palate after a heavy dinner and pud!

  14. Vin du Bugey-Cerdon VDQS. Sparkling, just a little bit sweet, refreshing, not very alcoholic (8%). Try the “La Cueille” from Patrick Bottex.

  15. Vin santo

  16. I would dig some tawny port or madeira with that as well

  17. Tawny port or Cognac (yes, brandy from grapes is a wine, no?)

  18. I must respectfully object to the constant theme of sweet thick wine with sweet thick cake. I vote prosecco, if not toasty, biscuity champagne, as dry as possible. Why is it forbidden — and I’ve come across this in experts’ books lately — to pair dry sparklers with sweet desserts? To me the match is obvious and delightful.

  19. Fruitcake is definitely not unpopular in the UK. Today we had both fruitcake and its richer, heavier and sweeter sibling, Christmas pudding. It sounds like a nightmare to most Americans, myself included but it was actually very good. The nice thing about fruitcake is that it’s a fairly dry dessert so will pair with most sweet and semi-sweet wines very well. A tawny port was perfect. The traditional pair for Christmas pudding is PX sherry which for me is just too much – they’re practically the same flavor.

    Nancy, the reason dry sparkling wines are not recommended with sweet deserts is that they make the wine taste sour. There are few rules in wine and food pairings, and this is one of them.

  20. Special Reserve Madiera and Fruitcake

  21. Bruce Ward has hit the nail on the head. Aussie muscats are a great match. Unctuous and raisiny. Great in the northern hemisphere where I believe it’s just a little bit cool at the moment.

  22. I’d grab a bottle of a nice Late Harvest Zin!

  23. Late Haverst Muscat, Yalumba Museum Reserve, Australia. Great Pairing.


  24. […] you think that Dr. V minds that I borrow his “impossible wine pairing” schtick? I’m sure he […]

  25. Ooo, mulled wine is no profanity if you make it right! Forget the cheapy spice packets. Cook it up yourself using something dark, fruity, and dry (like Dornfelder, or if you’re in the States, maybe a fruitier Merlot):

    1 bottle (.75l) red wine with good fruit (but not sweet! It should be deep and mellow)
    1/4 cup orange juice
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1/4 tsp cloves
    shake of nutmeg
    If you’d like: 1 piece of star anise and/or 3 pieces of cardamom
    2 tbs brown sugar

    Combine everything in a medium-sized saucepan and heat slowly until it’s a nice, hot drinking temperature (not too long, you’ll cook off all the alcohol). Add a splash of cherry brandy, if you’d like.

    Serve steaming in mugs with a piece of Stollen (German fruit cake) or gingerbread.

    The trick is to use a lovely but not shamefully expensive wine. The quality of your mulled wine depends on the quality of your ingredients, of course. 🙂


  26. I think a port is strong enough for this…a 10 year old fonseca will be excellent!

  27. In Germany, mulled wine (Gluhwein) goes down rather nicely with cake.


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