Thanksgiving dinner is a literal smorgasbord of different tastes, from side dishes to dips to gravies and, of course, the turkey. And after you’ve cooked and slaved away, pairing the wine should be enjoyable, not add more stress.
Choosing the right wine for Thanksgiving dinner can be a little tricky if you aren’t sure which one pairs with what. It’s not rocket science, but a little help from an expert doesn’t hurt.
Arthur Black, Master Sommelier and wine educator, says forget the stress.
“The number one rule of food and wine pairing is drink what you like and eat what you like, it’s as simple as that.”
A few questions, however, still need to be answered. What do you like? What are your guests going to like?
J.B. Andrews, bar manager at Bluebeard in Indianapolis, recommends something a little dry, a little sweet and a little fizzy.
“One of the most palatable wines to start your dinner with is Vouvray. It’s got a little bit of bubbles. That is going to help kickstart your appetite.,” he said. “Vouvray isn’t an over-the-top wine, it’s not too aggressive. And if you like it, it could very well carry on through the meal and pair with the turkey as well.”
• J.B.’s food pairings for Vouvray: cheeses, potato chips, French fries, sweet desserts, salted nuts.
Another great starter wine, and more familiar with most, is chardonnay. Nice balances of acidity, oak and alcohol level, chardonnays are a perfect food wine according to Dave Poore, an expert in wine pairing and manager at St. Elmo's Steak House.
Poore recommends this rich white wine to compliment not only your starters, but says it can be a perfect match for whiter meats, potato dishes and, of course, the classic Green Bean Casserole.
It’s also a crowd pleaser. “Chardonnay is one of those wines, if it’s a good quality, can please most all guests.”
• David’s food pairings: Green Bean Casserole, mashed potatoes, turkey breast, roasted chicken, creamy cheeses, white gravy.
If red wine is what you are looking for, then Pinot noir is the best choice for Thanksgiving. This seemed to be the consensus of everyone I talked to about wine pairing for Thanksgiving.
Pinot doesn’t fight with your food, says Andrews. It’s got enough acidity to cut through any fattiness and pairs well with turkey and ham.
If you want to drink New World wine, Andrews, Poore and Black all agree that any Pinot coming from the Willamette Valley in Oregon is the way to go. The wines are not only excellent, they all say, but reasonably priced and accessible everywhere.
Food and wine pairing shouldn’t be intimidating, says Black, but it’s also a time to treat yourself. “You’ve spent hours preparing the turkey, cornucopias of food, sometimes you just slide on the wine. Thanksgiving is the time to treat yourself to something nicer.”
• Arthur's wine pairings: Turkey, ham, darker leg/thigh meat richer side dishes
Tips for wine pairing:
- White wine shouldn’t be confined to spring and summer. Whites are wonderful with a lot of fare prepared during fall and winter, especially feasts like Thanksgiving.
- Don’t put too much stock in vintage. Although important, reputable wineries will make great wines at any vintage. Find one you like, and most everything they make will be great.
- You don’t want extremely high alcohol wines when pairing. The alcohol can overpower any flavor from your food.
- You need sugar in your wine if you have sugar in your food. Sweeter wines are the best choice when pairing with desserts.
- Be adventurous! Pick something you’ve never tried before. One of the best parts of drinking wine is sharing and trying new things.
Twinkle VanWinkle was born in a small town in Mississippi. A life-long lover of music, media and food, she grew up following those three things along her path. She has almost 20 years of professional cooking under her apron strings, feeding thousands of friends, family and other folks while working in restaurants and bakeries in Oxford, Miss. She baked 300 apple pies for the “Oprah Winfrey Show” and appeared on “The Best Of...” in the same year. Along with producing dynamic entertainment content for LIN Media, she is a mother, musician and social media fanatic.
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