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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Wine with Thanksgiving Turkey

Image from foodandwine.com
About half the population asks, "What wine should I have with Thanksgiving dinner?" and the other half will try to answer that question. So here's my go at it. I'm assuming something traditional as in "turkey dinner with all the trimmings."

With this meal you're going to have a multitude of flavors: Turkey (savory), mashed potatoes & gravy (savory, buttery, salty), sweet potatoes (earthy, sweet), cranberries (tangy), and all the traditional spices--allspice, sage, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper. Quite a complex meal when you think about it.

So, what wine?

First, what not to have--anything too big, heavy, dry, or acidic. For red wines this includes most Cabernet, Syrah, and  Zinfandel, Sangiovese, and the like. In whites I'd avoid many Sauvignon Blancs, Gewurztraminers and Rieslings, though some of these will work (the ones that don't come across too acidic).

What's best:

Chardonnay - This is one place where the big, oaky, buttery type of Chard can work. And it's probably your Aunt Esther's favorite wine anyway so keep her happy and you won't have to see her again for another year! The less oaked and buttery Chardonnays will work here, also.

Viognier, Roussanne - These fuller-bodied white varieties are more difficult to find, but will pair well with the meal.

Rosé - A quality off-dry rosé pairs nicely. I said "quality" and I didn't say "sweet." There are some bad food matches in the rosé category so be wary.

Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Grenache - Any of this lighter, fruity reds made in a more restrained style will go with the turkey dinner. How can you tell if it's restrained rather than a big, bold style? Go by the alcohol level (below 14%) or ask the clerk in a wine shop.

Sparkling - My favorite match for Thanksgiving dinner is an off-dry sparkling wine--Brut, Blanc de Blanc, Blanc de Noir, Rosé. All work! Nothing says happy holidays like popping a bottle of bubbly. Careful though, the bubbles might make Aunt Esther giggle.

In a sparkling wine I stay away from the cheap stuff. It really is made differently and it gives me a headache. One of the best for the money and widely available is the Roederer Estate Brut from Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, California. It should sell for $23 or less.

This is how you know the meal was a success