With Thanksgiving only a few weeks away the challenging task of matching a wine to the traditional feast should be by now well under way.
Thanksgiving challenging? Not just because it’s a big chore to put on and one must deal with numerous friends and relatives vying for an enviable seat at your table, but because the traditional meal does not lend itself easily to one particular Thanksgiving wine. You need a Thanksgiving wine guide.
Here is the challenge. You’re having turkey (with both white and dark meat) or maybe a ham, along with a savory stuffing, spicy potatoes, rich dark gravy and a tangy cranberry sauce. Maybe you rub your turkey with Creole butter, or rosemary sprigs or prepare it with an orange glaze, or deep fried with brown sugar. The point being there are many ways to prepare the traditional bird, and the meal itself can have a diverse mix of sweet, sour, salty, savory and spicy components. A perfect Thanksgiving wine needs to handle the diverse flavors and not overwhelm the focal point of the meal.
So what to do? Here are some recommendations to attempt to cover all the bases. If you tend to cook with more seasoning and spices the red Thanksgiving wines might work the best. We do suggest that you offer both a white and red options for your guests.
White Thanksgiving Wine Varieties
Pinot Gris – A light refreshing wine with pear, lemon and tropical fruit flavors. It can be overwhelmed if your food is overly seasoned.
Dry Riesling or Dry Gewürztraminer – the right balance of a slight sweetness and aromatic, spicy and floral fruit makes a lovely compliment to roasted turkey.
Chenin Blanc – Semi dry wine with floral, grass and honeysuckle aromas. Sometimes has a pleasant mineral or herbal quality that can add complexity.
Chardonnay or Pinot Blanc – Flavorful with flinty and fruity aromas made medium body and dry. These wines can stand up to well seasoned poultry. Finding one with little or no oak may work best with turkey.
Red Thanksgiving Wine Varieties
Gamay Beaujolais – (or Beaujolais Nouveau) These wines are often made in a white wine style where the juice has little contact to the grape skins. These light wines are served cooled and exhibit fruity, sometimes strawberry flavors.
Pinot Noir – The earthy, cherry, olive and raspberry flavors of this grape tend to match well with seasoned poultry and meats. Good with savory stuffing.
Merlot – A medium bodied Merlot with its peppercorn, green olive and earth and coffee flavors can often match well seasoned poultry and even ham. (Some might consider it a more risky choice.)
Zinfandel – Medium bodied Zin will stand up to spicier dishes. The ripe plum and blackberry fruit flavors along with a peppery finish works well with those more exotic poultry preparations. Also pairs well with ham.