For people that love turkey and wine, Thanksgiving just might be the perfect holiday. It is the one time of year we assemble where it’s about dining and thankfully no major gift giving is involved.
The traditional meal in our house consists of the infamous turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and if maybe some green bean casserole to round out the plate. With so many different dishes in one meal it may seem like finding a wine that pairs with everything is as likely as balancing the budget. With a little work however you can find some great wines that can handle the variety of dishes found on a Thanksgiving dinner table. As far as the budget goes we’ll leave that to Washington.
Sparkling Wines are great way to start your turkey dinner especially if they have a touch of sweetness or at least ample fruit. This allows them to stand up to the spices and herbs that are found in most of the side dishes. Try a Champagne or sparkler that is not Brut or bone dry. Extra Dry styles are the next step up in sweetness and you can find great examples in many price ranges from Italy, France, Spain or California. One of my personal favorites is Italian Prosecco. Made in the Veneto region of northeast Italy, Prosecco has fruit flavors of apple and citrus and many are frizzante or semi-sparkling making them softer as well as food friendly.
There are several white wine grape varieties that have both the fruit and acid to handle a Thanksgiving feast. My favorites include Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris and Viognier. You can find great domestic wines that fit this bill or if you are feeling adventurous look to France, South Africa or Australia. If you cannot bear to be without Chardonnay, try a lighter unoaked style from California, Australia or New Zealand. These will usually say unoaked, unwooded or virgin on the bottle to indicate they are not aged in oak barrels. These Chardonnay have fresher fruit flavors and retain more food friendly acidity than the bigger oaky styles.
Don’t forget red wine. According to recent studies by the Wine Market Council red wine is preferred by 60% of wine drinkers so you’d better have some red wine options at the table. Fortunately there are several reds that will be a great addition to your Thanksgiving festivities. Pinot Noirs are a great option because they not only have great fruit flavors but enough acidity to stand up to the salt and acids found in many of the Thanksgiving dishes. Syrah and Zinfandel are also good choices with jammy fruit and a touch of spice to complement the flavors on your plate. Zinfandel is a California specialty but you might look to its Italian relative Primitivo for a change of pace. If you want to spice things up try a Syrah (aka Shiraz) from California, Washington, Australia or the Rhone Valley in France.
To add something new to this year’s dinner start with a sparkling wine to loosen everyone up and then serve several white and red wines with the meal. Then everyone can compare how each wine pairs with the various side dishes as well as the Turkey. It adds a modern twist to your traditional meal!
Try these fine examples to liven up your Thanksgiving feast of turkey and wine:
Mionetto Prosecco NV, Veneto, Italy
Made from Glera grapes, these sparklers from the Veneto region of Italy are made in a variety of styles from frizzante, which in Italian means slightly sparkling, to fully sparkling like Champagne. Prosecco tends to be fruitier than Champagne or other dry sparklers making it more accepted by a wide range of wine and beer lovers. Fruity, but dry, this lively wine is the perfect way to start off your Thanksgiving feast. Add a touch of peach nectar to a Prosecco, and you have what’s called a Bellini. Salute! (Retails $18)
Allan Scott Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and refreshing and goes with so many different dishes especially salads, appetizers, white meats and seafood. Some of the best New World Sauvignon Blancs come from New Zealand specifically the Marlborough region. New Zealand is made up of two islands; Marlborough is in the northern part of the south island. This wine has lively acidity and aromas of herbs, grapefruit and passion fruit. The fruit flavors along with its crisp acidity will help this wine stand up to all your turkey sides. (Retails $16)
Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley
Jim Bernau, owner and founder of Willamette Valley Vineyards, is obsessed with making the best Pinot Noir that the Willamette Valley can deliver. The Whole Cluster Pinot Noir uses a process similar to that in Beaujolais, France delivering a softer wine that has aromas much like that a fresh fruit berry salad. The balance of fruit, acidity and structure in this wine make this a perfect accompaniment to your Thanksgiving meal. (Retails $22)