When this is all over, you're going to want a drink
November 22nd, 2012
12:45 PM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

Thanksgiving dinner flapped by on its big ol’ turkey wings, but it’s still the holiday season, which means there are plenty of additional dinners coming up. Pairing specific wines with specific dishes is fine - think about it if you want, don’t if you don’t.

But sometimes it’s nice to sit back after dinner and sip something sweet purely on its own. Here are three excellent vinous substitutions for (or additions to) dessert.

Moscato d’Asti
Moscato has become huge over the past year or two, thanks in part to some intervention from the hip-hop world. Much of what’s on the shelves is from California, but for my money the grape variety reaches its apogee in Italy’s Piedmont region. Moscato d’Asti - from vineyards near the city of the same name - is gently sparking, lightly sweet, and beautifully fragrant, recalling tangerines and orange-blossom honey.

One of the best is the graceful 2011 Michele Chiarlo Nivole ($12 for 375 ml); another good one to look for is the apple-inflected 2011 Paolo Saracco ($14).

Port, which comes from northern Portugal’s Douro Valley, is arguably the world’s greatest sweet wine (the château owners of Sauternes might disagree, but that’s their prerogative). Great vintage ports can age for decades; but assuming you don’t have a temperature-controlled cellar and decades of patience, you might want something more immediately approachable. Tawny port, which is aged in barrels by the producer and has an alluring toffee-nuts-dried fruit character, is the answer.

One of the best is Dow’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port ($25), which has distinct hazelnut and dried citrus notes. Another is the Croft 10 Year Old Tawny Port ($30), which is in a slightly sweeter, more caramelized style.

Late Harvest Zinfandel
Late-harvest Zinfandels are exactly that: wines made from Zinfandel grapes that are harvested very late in the season, which means grapes that are intensely ripe and high in natural sugar. The alcohol content of the finished wine isn’t any higher than usual though, which means a glass of late-harvest zin won’t damage you quite as much as a glass of port (which is fortified up to 19 or 20 percent alcohol) will.

Two to look for are the spicy 2009 Dashe Late Harvest Zinfandel ($24) and the dark, plummy 2011 Bella Late Harvest Zinfandel ($25).

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Previously - Maybe you're more in a cider mood? Or perhaps looking for a killer casserole-friendly wine. Perhaps everything is coming up rosé for T-Day.

Get all our best Thanksgiving advice

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Filed under: Content Partner • Food and Wine • Holidays • Sip • Thanksgiving • Wine

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. jim

    What about Canadian Ice Wine?

    November 22, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
  2. bellenoitr

    All choices way too sweet for me.

    November 22, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  3. WJS

    A little Gewurtztraminer and some Vince Guaraldi to kick off the season. Life is good.

    November 22, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  4. Lola

    After all my cooking, I will be "relaxing" with nice glass of Malbec, can't wait.

    November 22, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  5. Noxious Sunshine

    Drinks? Yes please.

    My mother, for the first time -ever-, decided to skip out on cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year and drag my dad and I to a.. "Friend's" house. Their other good friend (who is also the boss of these "friends".. He owns a fleet of trucks and yeah) got dragged along with us. Thankfully he's naturally sarcastic and honest. He complained about the woman's food the whole time. She didn't bake a turkey – she'd bought pre-carved turkey breast & legs and pre-cooked "BBQ Style" Chopped ham. She served everything buffet-style, which isn't a problem, but everything was cold and disgusting.

    I couldn't help laughing at my mother as I pulled our beautiful Butterball Turkey out of the fridge (In a stroke of genius, I pulled it out of the freezer this morning) and put it in a cold water bath while she now lays in bed with an upset stomach.
    Not to be rude to our hosts, but I'm naturally weird about eating food a stranger has cooked (save for restaurants where there are standards of sorts).

    November 22, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Corey

      Thankfully your friend is naturally sarcastic and honest? He sounds like a d-bag and if he was at MY house eating MY food and complaining about it I would have kicked him out faster than you could say bob's your uncle. You should have been THANKFUL that you had a place to eat. You sound like a real piece of work, dear.

      November 22, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • Corey

      I just read your post again and I must say you sound like a horrible person. I guess we all forgot the meaning of this day.

      November 22, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  6. Ian Johnson

    I'm not the wine police but...
    Is Port really "arguably" the worlds greatest sweet wine? Comparing Port to Sauternes? Ranking quality between the two is like ranking quality between Champagne and Fino Sherry. Stylistically they are not even close.
    And with all the great sweet / fortified wines in the world would late harvest Zinfandel really make the list?
    Trust me I'm cringing at responding to this article but...really?
    Madeira, late harvest German Rieslings, Sherry, Tokaji Aszu, Canadian Ice Wine, Australian Stickies, Austria...

    November 22, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  7. wisdom4u2

    Well, I have always liked a 'lil dinner with my wine.... So, I don't know wha'cha talkin 'bout, Willis.

    November 22, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
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