Pairing Your Thanksgiving Meal with Wine

Thanksgiving with WIne

What Is Thanksgiving Without Turkey and Wine?

Ah…Thanksgiving – the one Holiday where cooks can actually give their guests the bird. Of course, on Thanksgiving, that bird is likely to be turkey. Thanksgiving wine pairings usually pose the biggest problems of any of the major holidays. Oh sure, turkey, mashed potatoes, even that green bean casserole or salad are usually pretty easy to pair with wine. It’s Aunt Agnes’s fruit and marshmallow salad or Grandma’s yams with loads of cinnamon and brown sugar that are problematic. Even that pre-fab cranberry jelly is a wine pairing nightmare (and doesn’t it look appealing lying on a plate with the dents from the can still pressed into it). It’s those doggone side dishes.  Do away with them and you do away with your wine paring issues.  Possible…yes.  Practical…hardly.Wines that pair with turkey, completely change on your palate if they are following a sweet dish. Conversely, wines that can coexist with those sweeter dishes won’t compliment the savory portion of your meal. Notice I said “coexist” not “pair” because I don’t think any wine is made to pair with marshmallows and fruit stained with red dye #2. Hmm…what wine goes best with carcinogens? But, hope is not lost. There are a few general wine pairing rules that still apply and if you are willing to think outside the box, you can come up with some pretty successful Thanksgiving wine pairings.

First, here are some general rules for pairing your Thanksgiving meal with wine.

1) Thanksgiving wine pairings almost always involve turkey or some other type of fowl. If that’s the case, you are definitively looking for wines that are on the lighter side. However, don’t buy into that whole “only white wines with fowl” BS. There are some lighter red wines that pair well with stronger fowl. This is also a good place for you to bring out that harder to pair Rose, particularly the not overly sweet ones.
2) If you are cooking fattier poultry like duck or goose, treat it like a red meat, not traditional turkey. The meat will need at least a light or medium body read wine to stand up to the fat in the meat.
3) If wine was a major ingredient in cooking your meal, then its probably a good wine to also serve with it as well.

Suggestions to Improve Your Wine and Food Parings for Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving wine and food pairings, even the guidelines mentioned above aren’t perfect. Picking a single wine to pair with everything on our Thanksgiving table just isn’t feasible so that leaves three choices for great food and wine pairings for all of your guests.

1) Stage your meals and begin with more savory elements (the turkey, potatoes, vegetables etc.) and pair wine with those elements and then bring out the 2nd courses with the sweeter elements. This may not be a viable option though. After all, am I the only one who had that cousin who piles so much of everything on the plate, that only an Olympian could actually lift the dish? They want it all at once and they want it now, not staged in mini courses.
2) Ban those sweet dishes from your table (if you can) and then pairing isn’t such a problem. This probably doesn’t work either because the Thanksgiving meal tends to be about tradition and if that marshmallow fruit salad isn’t on the table, some one is going to be get their panties in a bunch.
3) Have different types of wine open at once. Thanksgiving usually means a big meal with larger crowds than a normal family dinner. You know what that means? Yep…you need more wine for a larger number of guests. While likely more expensive, it also gives you the opportunity to have four different types of wine open at a time. You don’t limit your guests to one course in a meal. Why limit them to one choice of wine? This is the best way to pair wine with a Thanksgiving meal.

The Four Types of Wine You Want for Thanksgiving

Try and keep one bottle open from each group mentioned below at any given time and you will have a good wine pairing no matter what someone’s favorite dish is.

Sparkling Wines – pair well with fruit dishes because the effervescence acts like a palate cleanser. It’s also great with many seafood based appetizers.

Prosecco
Champagne
Sparkling Wine (remember most new world wineries can no long use the term “Champagne” due to trade mark restrictions).

Crisper Refreshing Wines -These compliment the turkey as well as many green salads or vegetable dishes without a rich sauce.  Here are a few typical ones:

Pinot Grigio
Albarino
Light Sauvignon Blanc
Fiano
Semillon

Full Bodied Whites, Dry (or off Dry) Roses and Light Bodied Reds – These will also work with your turkey but offer a better compliment to gravy and butter or cream based sauces. Try one of these:

Chardonnay
Roussanne
Viognier
Rose
Pinot Noir
Dolcetto
Beaujolais

Sweeter Wines – These are the only ones that can coexist with those sweet dishes that invariably find their way to the Thanksgiving table.  These should be pretty easy to find:

New World Rieslings
Gerwurtstraminer
Muscat
Arneis

We’ve included a few of the good wines that we have run across in our travels in case your weren’t sure where to get some of the less common suggestions we’ve provided.

Wine Suggestions

Sparkling Wines (including Champagne, Prosecco and others)
Kirigen Cellars

Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris
Vino Noceto Winery
Fenestra Winery
Kirigen Cellars 

Albarino
Cru Wine Company

Sauvignon Blanc
Cuda Ridge
Tanis Vineyards
Lorimar

Fiano
Solis Vineyards

Semillon
Fenestra

Chardonnay
Burrell School Winery
Silver Mountain
Cru Winery

Roussanne
Les Chenes Estate Vineyards

Viognier

Idle Hour Winery
Eckert Estate

Rose
Thomas Cruse
Aver Family

Pinot Noir
Silver Mountain
Idle Hour Winery
Sarah’s Vineyard
Burrell School Winery

Dolcetto
Bonny Doon Winery
Monteliva Vineyard and Winery

New World Riesling

Gewurztraminer
Husch Vineyards
Thomas Fogarty Winery

Muscat
Eberle Winery
Husch Vineyards

Arneis
Robert Renzoni Vineyards

Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving includes lots of friends, family, good food and of course, good wine and the only thing fowl is the turkey.

Cheers from Winery-Sage.com!

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