My inbox is overflowing. All sommeliers get the most questions about wine and food pairings during the holidays. What wines do I serve with my Thanksgiving dinner? I always want to give a satisfying answer, and not frustrate the hosts. Still, I usually say, “It depends.” What are you serving? How do you prepare your turkey/ham? Will it be roasted, brined, smoked, or deep-fried? Are you beginning with appetizers? Serving a salad? What are your side dishes? Will you serve a dessert wine?
In an effort to avoid that frustration, I offer this…
My top 9 suggestions for Thanksgiving wine and food pairings. Remember, these are not hard and fast rules, just guidelines:
1. Serve what you like to drink not what you think you must serve.
2. Be festive. Serve a sparkling wine as a welcoming aperitif.
3. Match the weight of the food with the weight of the wine.
4. Use bridge ingredients in a recipe (cheese, fruit, nuts) to make wine more compatible with vegetables, salad dressings, and spices.
5. Avoid heavily tannic wine with turkey and spicy casseroles. Pinot Noir is always a good choice for roasted white meats as it has lighter tannins. Dry Rosé works well, too. Keep that special Cabernet Sauvignon in the cellar/shelf, as the tannins will fight the spiciness of the food.
6. Red Zinfandel’s flavors of plum, pepper, jammy blackberry and tobacco can hold up to a smoked or deep-fried turkey.
7. A Garnacha/Grenache based wine, domestic or international, works well with ham; especially those honey-based hams or ones served with cherry sauce. The raspberry, baked cherry and spice notes are a perfect pairing.
8. Full-bodied white wines like Chardonnay and Viognier pair well with heavier sauces, root vegetables, or cheese.
9. Dessert wines should be sweeter than the dessert or the wine will taste flat/sour.
See my sample menu for suggested wine and food pairings. Alton Brown’s Good Eats Turkey is a favorite in our home. We brine the turkey the day before and the resulting roasted turkey retains optimal moisture.
Join me on twitter @WineGrapeStone and let me know what wines worked for you.
Happy Thanksgiving to all PRiME Women.
Thanksgiving Wine Pairing Menu
Maple-Rosemary Almonds courtesy of Rachel Ray
Paired with: Veuve Clicquot, La Grande Dame or Gruet New Mexico Grand Rosé Sparkler
Pear, Walnut, Blue Cheese Salad courtesy of Birmingham’s Hot and Hot Fish Club
Paired with: Chateau d’Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé
Roasted Root Vegetables courtesy of Emeril
Paired with: Fess Parker Ashley’s Vineyard Chardonnay
Bobby’s Wild Rice and Goat Cheese Dressing recipe courtesy of Bobby Flay, Food Network
Paired with: Ponzi Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley Oregon
Brined and Roasted Good Eats Turkey courtesy of Alton Brown
Paired with: Donum Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
(Smoked or Fried Turkey – Dry Creek Vineyard Old Vines Zinfandel)
Pumpkin Pie courtesy of Martha Stewart
Paired with: Australia’s Yalumba Museum Reserve Muscat (375ML bottle) $19.99
2006 Veuve Clicquot La Grand Dame $149.99
Ratings: Robert Parker – 94 points
This is the Verve Clicquot Prestige Cuvee – a great wine that pays homage to Madame Clicquot. This wine has smoke-tinged flavors of almond, poached pear, toast aromas. Highly recommended.
2010 Gruet New Mexico Grand Rosé Sparkler $41.99
Ratings: Wine.com’s Wilfred Wong – 92 points
A surprising and popular American sparkler from New Mexico, this sparkling Rosé has flavors and aromas of strawberry and rich cherry with almond and floral notes.
2015 Chateau d’Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé $19.99
Ratings: The Tasting Panel – 93 points
An irresistible pink! Charming, refreshing, refined, and with plenty of juicy, enticing, strawberry and berry fruit. This is a Rosé that should be in everyone’s cellars, without exception.
2014 Fess Parker Ashley’s Vineyard Chardonnay $31.00
Ratings: Robert Parker – 92 points
This Chardonnay from the Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara region is laced with lemon confit, jasmine, mint, sweet spice and light buttery notes.
2012 Ponzi Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley Oregon $59.99
Ratings: Wine Spectator – 91 points
Willamette Valley is one of America’s best Pinot Noir regions. Spicy, smoke-accented black raspberry and candied cherry aromas contribute to an expression of power.
2012 Donum Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir $99.99
Ratings: Wine Spectator – 92 points
This wine offers a depth and richness with tiers of vibrant raspberry, anise and blackberry. Toasty oak on the finish.
2013 Dry Creek Vineyard Old Vines Zinfandel $33.99
Ratings: Wine Spectator – 90 points
This is a zesty Zin loaded with lively fruit, floral raspberry and pepper aromas leading to a layered, jammy flavor of wild berry, licorice and smoky sage.
Australia’s Yalumba Museum Reserve Muscat (375ML bottle) $19.99
Ratings: Wine Enthusiast – 92 points
The production of this fortified wine is part of the Yalumba and Barossa Valley history. Deep copper colored with tastes and aromas of dark toffee, mochas, caramelized orange, candied apricots and a long finish.