Cranberry sauce: impossible food-wine pairing?!?

Nobody goes to a Thanksgiving meal and says, “Mmm, I can’t wait to try the cranberry sauce this year!” But while it is not the center of the meal, it is a crazy component of it.

Ever since the Native Americans opened the first can of cranberry sauce for the pilgrims in 1621, it has been a part of the Thanksgiving meal. And ever since 1976, in the wake of the Paris tasting, we wine enthusiasts have been trying to pair wine with it–or find a wine that won’t be demolished by the combination of natural tartness and the added sweetness.

So what say you: which wine do you pair with cranberry sauce…or is it impossible?!?

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36 Responses to “Cranberry sauce: impossible food-wine pairing?!?”

  1. I don’t have a good wine pairing, per se, but I beg to differ with your opening line. Cranberry sauce is what I look forward to!

  2. In this scenario, I ditch the traditional grape wine and go for fruit. A raspberry-based wine or port might work. Also, since I am around people on holidays who can’t drink for various health reasons, I may opt for an Arabic-style cordial diluted with soda water.

    Otherwise, I just treat the cranberry is garnish and pair the wine to the meat served.

  3. Aha, Warren, well this thread’s for you then–stay tuned! #cranberry

  4. I’d say a strong Valpolicella or a Corvina blend with the cranberry sauce with the bird! 😉

  5. I’m with Warren. There’s a small producer in So Cal that makes an amazing spiced cranberry sauce (in a jar #gasp#) that I jones for every holiday season. I look for a red that has a significant spice character to pair with it (our Parcel 17 Monastrell-Mazuelo-Graciano blend being but one example.)

  6. There’s always the option of the cranberry-based Cosmopolitan cocktail. 🙂

    I actually had cranberry sauce with a pair of Rieslings last night. It went better with the sweeter, fruitier one. With the dry, mineral wine, the cranberries knocked out most of the flavor.

  7. Ha, okay, El Jefe! So do you cranberry lovers enjoy the sauce seasonally but the juice all year round?

    And what are “craisins”?!?

  8. I say 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape.

    2007 Chateauneuf pairs well with everything. Veal Parm from Vito’s. Dim Sum at Mark;s Duck House. Anything at Charleston. Mrs. Parker’s Crab Cake recipe.

    Anything goes with 2007 CDP!

  9. Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley.
    Particularly whole cluster.

  10. I find it much easier to pair beer with the main course at Thanksgiving. A slightly sour, slightly sweet beer like, err, Jolly Pumpkin La Roja, or Russian River Publication is perfect. A bit of wild fermentation, usually the dreaded brettanomyces, gives some nice sour notes to both, but they both have a touch of sweetness which seems to help the pairing.

    That being said, it’s nice to have a wine option throughout, so I tend to do an off-dry (around spatlese levels) riesling (from the US since it’s Thanksgiving). Maybe the wine wouldn’t survive a bowl of cranberry sauce, but it works very well for cranberry sauce on a plate with other food.

    I also usually need to open a red by the time the main course comes around, as some people just “don’t drink white wine,” and eagerly await the suggestions.

  11. I agree with the Corvina based wines, also a nice juicy Grenache work well.

  12. Actually cranberry juice is one of my favorite non-alcoholic options. It has a sort of tannic bite to it that I like.

    I believe Craisins are a problematic marketing idea, but a delicious food product. It strikes me as being a little like marketing your wines as being “just as good as Napa”. Much better to stand on your own identity and merits!

  13. I say go for a high acid red with tart berry or cherry fruit like a Cru Beaujolais, an unoaked Frappato from Sicily or a Mencia from Ribeira Sacra in Spain.

  14. I would go Beaujolais Nouveau (I know, it’s SO declasse but it doesn’t all suck) or Belgian Framboise Lambic.

  15. One vote for Navarro pinot noir grape juice. It’s non-alcoholic, but I think it might just do the trick…

  16. High tannin in the berries, and a lot of acid. So something softer: like a bubbly Rosa Regale, or sweetish Cremant.

  17. Or kir royale.

  18. Old-vine Carignane, in particular Contra from Bonny Doon Vineyard (my employer).

  19. Port. Good ruby port, like Noval Black.

  20. SeaMist winery from the Oregon coast makes a line of fruit based wines, offering both dry and semi-sweet forms. It’s not the run-of-the-mill fruit wines, as they have correspondingly good levels of acidity to balance the RS.

    They have a cranberry-based wine that would not only pair well with the sweeter cranberry side dishes, but would pair nicely with the remainder of the meal.

  21. A off-dry rose of Grenache is awesome with with cranberry sauce, especially if there’s a bit of orange zest in it. It helps to tame the natural astringency of the sauce as well to accentuate the strawberry and cranberry falvors of the Rose, especially if it’s from Santa Ynez. One Word… Bomb!

  22. maybe a good champagne of sorts? probably something tasting but not overwhelming… is that descript enough?

  23. i always make a slightly tart cranberry sauce with orange zest, cinnamon, and ginger. i think an off dry gewurz would be stellar. i might even have to try it this thanksgiving…

  24. I work in a winery in Australia, and we make a Grenache Rose. I find the rose mixes extremely well with cranberry juice, as something nice and refreshing to drink on a hot day. Perhaps rose or light Grenache styles may go well with cranberry sauce?

  25. Grenache all the way! Our Grenache has a lot of cranberry like flavors. Anything with a Grenache base. Rose’ wines might even be better…

  26. The best match is Sparkling Shiraz, we have it every year for Christmas with our Turkey and Cranberry sauce. Surely there is some Aussie Sparkling Shiraz over in the States, missing out if not!

  27. […] Ah, Thanksgiving, it has a habit of recurring once a year. And with it come questions about what to serve with a meal whose flavors range from a neutral turkey to the crazy sides of candied yams and cranberry sauce. […]

  28. I need to try a Sparkling Shiraz. The Aussies are making some good wine these days.

  29. Cranberry wine is available from three wineries in Plymouth, MA — quite an appropriate place for the Thanksgiving holiday (although you can enjoy them anytime). More info at:

  30. A bright glass of Montmorency Cherry wine will do the trick!

  31. […] think I might have Dr. V stumped. Chips and salsa may be tough, but Frito […]

  32. German Spätburgunder handles Thanksgiving beautifully, even my cranberry sauce made with port, dried and fresh cranberries, mulling spices,a touch of blasamic vinegar and more…
    many fun wine suggestions in previous posts.

  33. If you know italian language I answered at the question of this article on this blog…for me this is a possible pairing!

    😉 if you want you can reading it…

  34. 2007 Sean Minor Pinot Noir (Carneros).

  35. Help! I’ve been planning to make some special cranberry sauces and chutneys to go with my dry-brined sage/rosemary bird. I wanted to cook my homemade spiced orange rind and fresh cranberries in a 2008 Carneros Pinot Noir or a bold Cab(rather than water or juice) but have suddenly been struck with doubts about whether I have chosen a wine with enough richness and body to meld with the powerful flavors I’m using. Thank you. A friend suggested a Pinot Gris or even a (gasp) dry sparkling, but that has only confused me further.

  36. Becca,
    There’s one nice comment above that says that you should treat your cranberry sauce as if it’s a wine in your menu, use it to balance the rest.
    Nice idea.
    If you have to “balance everything with a wine”, then balance your sauce with a cranberry wine. Or the cosmo approach.


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