Wine With Turkey: Which Wines Pair Best with Thanksgiving Dinner?
When it comes to preparing the perfect turkey dinner this Thanksgiving, there are an endless number of factors to consider. How will you be preparing your turkey? What will you be serving on the side? Are other people bringing food? What’s for dessert? And then, of course, there’s the most important question of all: which wine(s) will you be serving? When it comes to choosing the perfect wine this Thanksgiving, your best bet is to think about your side dishes. On its own, turkey is rather mild; the sides tend to set the tone of the meal and shape the taste of the turkey. Turkey wines are often paired based on the whole meal itself. With this in mind, the wine.net team decided to reach out to food and wine experts in order to learn more about pairing Thanksgiving dinner and wine, and our findings proved both helpful and enlightening. When it comes time to prepare your Thanksgiving feast (and it will be here sooner than we know it!), be sure to consult our guide to Which Wines Go Best with Thanksgiving Dinner! Bon appetit!
“If it grows together, it goes together.”
According to Food Network wine blogger Stevie Stacionis, “one of the most relied-upon ‘rules’ of wine and food pairing is ‘if it grows together, it goes together.’ The idea is that wines and foods naturally evolved together as a whole regional cuisine. For example, you’d be more likely to find lots of fresh, crisp whites in a warmer-climate area adjacent to the sea than you’d be to find huge, dark, spicy reds (the former wines pair better with seafood than the latter).”
When it came time for specific suggestions, Ms. Stacionis recommends pinot noir (“just the right match for poultry and all your T-Day fixins”), chardonnay (“which just begs for some buttery mashed potatoes and gravy”), riesling (sweet varieties “[pair well] with pie”), and gewurztraminer, which “can act as an excellent contrast to the many savory, substantial foods of Thanksgiving.” Thanks for the great recommendations, Ms. Stacionis!
Look for Thanksgiving food and wine pairing suggestions online.
Wine.net also reached out to Duckhorn Vineyards in Napa Valley regarding Thanksgiving food and wine pairings, and they directed us to their Thanksgiving Pairing Menu. According to their website, they’ve “taken the guesswork out of pairing food and wine [and provided the capability] to search by course, main ingredient, or varietal to discover recipes that will complement [their] portfolio of wines.”
When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, they recommend pairing sauvignon blanc with pork dishes and dessert, pinot noir with poultry, chardonnay with cranberry sauce and soups, and cabernet sauvignon with starches. To learn more about Duckhorn Vineyards, visit www.duckhorn.com and @duckhornwine on Twitter.
Which wines should you pair with cranberry sauce?
Cranberry sauce is an essential part of any Thanksgiving meal, and its tart acidity is the perfect counterpart to Turkey Day’s buttery, rich dishes. Whether your cranberry sauce is homemade or from a can, figuring out which wine to serve alongside it can be tricky. The folks at wines.com offered the following suggestions on wine and cranberry sauce: “prosecco or a fresh-tasting dry rosé [both] pair well with the tart and tangy cranberry sauce.”
The most important thing to remember is that “it’s a successful pairing when the wine makes the food taste better and the food makes the wine taste better.” They also reiterated that “champagne or sparkling wine pairs remarkably well with Thanksgiving dishes from turkey to cranberry sauce to stuffing…our top sparkling wine pick for Thanksgiving would be a dry sparkling shiraz, an enticing chameleon wine that will morph with your menu to produce a spectacular pairing.”
Stuffing is a must at any Thanksgiving dinner. Which vino does it pair well with?
We’re about to make a bold statement: no Thanksgiving dinner is complete without stuffing. Wet stuffing (cooked in the bird) and dry (baked in a separate dish) are both Turkey Day essentials and have endless possibility when it comes to wine pairings. According to Ted Loos of Epicurious, your traditional herbed stuffing goes best with a pinot noir. He writes that “stuffing can throw wine pairings off, especially when the recipe contains celery. But the sage in this stuffing will brighten the celery and accentuate the pinot’s earthy side.”
When the time comes to choose a particular pinot noir, Mr. Loos recommends Montinore Estate 2008 Reserve Pinot Noir ($24). Produced “in Oregon’s famed Willamette Valley, [this wine] has a touch of the woods about it. It also has subtle sandalwood and lavender accents, surrounding a core of fresh cherry. This is an elegant, biodynamically farmed wine that’s more subdued than most American pinots.” You can view all of Mr. Loos’ pairing recommendations at https://www.epicurious.com/archive/drinking/wine/thanksgiving_winefoodpairings.
Ted Loos is a wine and spirits contributor at a number of magazines and also covers art and culture for several newspapers. Learn more at @LoosLips on Twitter.
How about casseroles? Everyone loves casseroles.
When it comes to Thanksgiving staples, it seems like casseroles are always in the mix. Green bean casseroles are perennial favorites, as are sweet potato casseroles. These dishes are a combination of many different ingredients, which means it can be difficult to find the best wine pairings. Hello Vino recommends serving a sauvignon blanc or viognier alongside your green bean casseroles, as their tart and full-flavored personalities work well with the varied ingredients of casseroles.
When you are looking to pair wine with sweet potato casserole, Courtney Brown of Quit WINEing recommends a riesling. Her pick? Weingut Ansgar Clüsserath’s 2006 Trittenheimer Apotheke Riesling Trocken from Mosel, Germany. She recommends this riesling with sweet potato casserole because “the hint of sweetness in the wine works incredibly well with sweeter dishes like…sweet potato casserole. Plus, riesling is incredibly versatile with food due to its naturally high acidity and low alcohol level [and] guests who don’t often drink wine will also enjoy its touch of sweetness. What I like about this particular riesling with sweet potato casserole is [that its] rich texture [helps] it stand up to the heaviness of the dish. There is also a smoky element that plays nicely off [of] the toasted marshmallows. Additionally, the wine has enough sugar to stand up to the sweetness of the yams [and the] length of [its] finish, along with its refreshing, clean acidity make you want to take another bite of the food and then another sip of the wine.” Learn more at https://www.ansgar-cluesserath.de/de/wine, www.quitwineing.com, and @QuitWINEing on Twitter.
Hello Vino is a website that delivers wine recommendations based upon personal taste preferences, food and wine pairings, special occasions, special tastes, and by varietal. Learn more at www.hellovino.com and @HelloVino on Twitter.
Another great choice when pairing wine and sweet potato casserole is a zinfandel. Sommelier Stacey Gibson spoke with Serious Eats on all things wine and Thanksgiving, and her advice was to look for big, full reds. She recommends zinfandel, and in particular, Dashe Cellars’ Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($20). It’s a bit fresher in style than some other zins out there–and that’s a good thing when it comes to pairing. It’s a distinctive wine, packed with rich berry and fig flavors, but it’s lighter in body and lower in alcohol than most. This helps to make it a dynamo on the table, working equally well with sweet potatoes as it does cranberry sauce.” To learn more, check out https://www.seriouseats.com/2014/11/thanksgiving-wine-picks-budget-domestic-sommelier-advice.html and @stacey_gib or @seriouseats on Twitter.
Stacey Gibson is a sommelier and manager at Olympia Provisions. You can learn more at https://www.olympiaprovisions.com/blogs/bios/10505021-stacey-gibson-sommelier-manager and @stacey_gib on Twitter.
Serious Eats brings a democratic (yet scientific) approach to cooking the best dishes, while also busting food myths and delivering strong opinions on what you should eat next, where, when, and why. Learn more at www.seriouseats.com and @seriouseats on Twitter.
One word: DESSERT.
When it comes to Thanksgiving desserts, pies are king. If you don’t like pumpkin pie, chances are you enjoy pecan pie or fruity pies. If you like any of those pies, we’ve got you covered. Our friends at Wine Peeps did a bit of investigating on pairing wine with pecan pie, and their findings are quite interesting. Their recommendation when it comes time to enjoy a delicious piece of pecan pie? Sherry! They explain that “the sherry was the unanimous choice as the best pairing with the pecan pie.
When you are pairing with a sweet dessert, you want the wine to be at least as sweet as the food.” Their specific recommendation is Bodegas Alvear’s Pedro Ximenez 1927 Sherry ($25). According to Bodegas Alvear’s website, their sherry is “sweet, large, and creamy with hints of caramel and cocoa latte on a background of raisins [with a] very long finish.” To learn more about this wine, visit https://www.alvear.es/index.php/en/component/k2/item/125-pedro-ximenez-1927.
If you prefer apple pie to pecan, the experts agree that you should look for a riesling. According to Bright Cellars, apple pie works with riesling because “the acidity in riesling brings out the delicious baked flavors in apple pie. Rieslings can even have notes of petroleum, complimenting the flavor of the flaky crust.”
One of our team’s favorite rieslings is Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 2014 Columbia Valley Riesling. The vineyard’s website describes “this wine [as offering] crisp apple aromas and flavors with subtle mineral notes. This is our ‘everyday riesling’ that is a pleasure to drink and easy to match with a variety of foods.” Learn more at https://www.ste-michelle.com/our-wines/2014-riesling.
Never fear, pumpkin pie lovers–we’ve saved the best for last! Few foods are as associated with a specific holiday as pumpkin pie is with Thanksgiving, and we have both white and red suggestions prepared for you.
If you’re looking for a red wine to pair with your pumpkin pie, Wino Woman suggests a good chianti. Her recommendation? Isole e Olena Vin Santo’s 2011 Del Chianti Classico. This wine “exudes wonderful honey notes, ripe apricot, and sweet spices [like cinnamon and clove] that complement pumpkin pie…You can feel a balancing acidity on the inside of your cheeks. The finish is haunting…it goes on and on. You won’t forget it. The wine’s sweetness level matches that of the pie, a key factor in pairing wine with dessert.” Visit https://winowoman.com/for-food/wine-for-pumpkin-pie/ for more from the Wino Woman, and https://www.italyatyourtable.com/producers-2/isole-e-olena/ to learn more about Isole e Olena.
Isole e Olena is a Tuscan winery founded in the 1950s. Learn more at https://www.italyatyourtable.com/producers-2/isole-e-olena/.
If you prefer a white wine with your pumpkin pie, Roberta Rinaldi of Examiner.com recommends a good gewurztraminer. According to her article on wine pairings for pumpkin desserts, you should “make sure the wine you choose is at least as sweet as, or slightly sweeter than the dessert with which it’s being paired. Otherwise, the wine will taste acidic and insipid.” Also, “the clove, ginger, and cinnamon combination in many pumpkin desserts is well-mirrored by a wine with a spicy component–think gewurztraminer.”
When choosing a gewurztraminer to pair with your pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving, consider Domaine Weinbach’s 2005 Altenbourg Selection de Grains Noble Gewurztraminer ($187). Domaine Weinbach describes their gewurztraminer as full of “wonderful aromas of rose, gilly-flower, jasmine, spices, crystallized citrus fruit [and] velvety bodies, they are sumptuous as an aperitif, with exotic food…or even with cheese…it will be your taste buds’ delight.” Learn more about pairing wine with food this Thanksgiving at https://www.examiner.com/article/wine-pairings-for-pumpkin-desserts, and visit https://www.domaineweinbach.com/en/wines/gewurz.htm for more information on Domaine Weinbach.
Roberta Rinaldi is the Beverly Hills Wine Examiner for Examiner.com. Learn more at https://www.examiner.com/wine-pairing-in-los-angeles/roberta-rinaldi.
Domaine Weinbach is a French vineyard founded in 1612 and located in Alsace. Visit https://www.domaineweinbach.com/en/welcome/welcome.htm to learn more.