Every year as Thanksgiving rolls around you can hear people starting to discuss the wine they are going to serve and what is the rule for turkey. We have come to think of wine pairing as what will match the meat being served but it is a much bigger question than that. It is all the flavors being served and your personal wine preferences that will help you decide which wine is best for your celebration.
When in doubt, a sparkling wine will carry you through from appetizer to dessert and be a friendly accompaniment to most foods.
Riesling – flavors of apple, apricot, honey and its acidity pair well with sweet potatoes, turkey meat and spice-laden or herb-filled stuffing.
Gewurztraminer – the aromatic nose and spicy palate appeal give it the ability to stand up to turkey and gravy, the sage and herbs of the stuffing.
Pinot Grigio – capable of handling garlic and onions, herbs and rich, flavorful, high-fat dishes that are so typical at Thanksgiving.
Pinot Noir – the classic red wine for Thanksgiving. Old World or New World, the style and regions differ. A Pinot Noir from Burgundy with its toasty, bacon flavors, or one from Oregon with smoky, tea characteristics.
Zinfandel – my personal favorite kicks up the intensity level from a Pinot Noir. A great wine choice for those looking for a heartier red wine with the ability to accommodate spice, bitter and sweet flavor profiles. (I like a little heat in my side dishes. Some Chipotle in the sweet potatoes, a little jalapeno in the cranberry sauce, perhaps.
Syrah or Shiraz – peppery notes of Syrah will partner well with herb-infused stuffing and the white meat and also be able to balance the higher fat of the dark turkey meat.
Port – deliciously nutty, sweet spice-filled character is a perfect complement to the pumpkin or pecan pie pairing combination.
Late Harvest Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc – rich, concentrated flavors of honey found in a variety of desserts like cheesecake, panna cotta or a cheese and fruit platter.
Fortified wines and late harvest wines offer the sweetness and the viscosity to support the rich flavors. The great news is that there are no hard and fast turkey pairing rules. There are no turkey police. You will not go to turkey dinner purgatory! Experiment with all wines and see what works best for you and your friends. The fun is in the tasting. Isn’t that what sharing the meal is all about? Gobble, gobble!