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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
Sparkling Wines (including Champagne, Prosecco and others)
Cru Wine Company
Les Chenes Estate Vineyards
Bonny Doon Winery
Monteliva Vineyard and Winery
New World Riesling
Thomas Fogarty Winery
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!