We’ve decided to deep-fry our turkey for Thanksgiving this year. Initially I wondered if deep frying the turkey vs. roasting it one way or another would influence by decision about what wines to pair with the turkey. My initial conclusion: only slightly because the deep-fried turkey tends to be more flavorful than a roast turkey in my experience. But then I realized I was over-thinking it. There’s a tendency to do that, I think, with holiday meals because a) there are so many flavors involved, and b) wanting to please everyone with wine(s) selected. Especially Thanksgiving, which can be perceived to be especially challenging, with the combination of sweet, savory, and spicy flavors.
Figuring out which wine(s) to serve with your Thanksgiving meal doesn’t have to be daunting, especially if you work with versatile wines. Here are my thoughts on the matter…
The first thought that comes to mind is to select a red and a white to keep those who are going to drink wine happy. But indulge me for a moment. If I had to pick one wine to go with Thanksgiving dinner, it wouldn’t be a white or a red; it would be a dry rosé, and probably a dry sparking rosé at that. Dry rosés are very versatile, and can handle the diversity of flavor and “weight” profiles that are part and parcel of Thanksgiving fare. You add the effervescence of a sparkler to the mix and you’ve got the Swiss army knife of wines (See my blog about Rosés – “Everything is coming up Rosés for me” below)!
Now back to my original thought of having a mix of red and white wines. I recommend the following:
1. Start with a sparkling wine. It’s a great aperitif to sip while waiting for the turkey to finish cooking, and it goes well with starters like appetizers, soup, and salad. Beside it adds a celebratory note to Thanksgiving.
2. For white wine, the safe bet is a dry, or off-dry Riesling. Rieslings play well with spicy, sweet or sweet dishes. It’s an aromatic grape that typically produces wines with almost perfumed aromas of flowers, and stone fruits (apples, pears, peaches, and apricot), and it’s high in acidity, which makes it a versatile pairing partner for your Thanksgiving meal. Other good choices are Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris. Looking to expand you, and your guests wine palates? Try an Albarino, or Viognier. While they lack the name recognition of Chardonnay, either will offer more versatile pairing power for your Thanksgiving meal than many Chardonnays.
3. For red wine, the safe bet is a Pinot Noir, a traditional favorite red wine for Thanksgiving. Pinot Noir’s fruitiness, subtle earthy undertones, and acidity tend to show well with the traditional flavors of turkey and stuffing. Not a fan of Pinot Noir?, try a Beaujolais Nouveau a light fruity red wine made from the Gamay grape will pair well with turkey and all the fixings. Beaujolais Nouveau is released from France on the third Thursday of November, just in time to highlight your Thanksgiving feast! Or even better try a Cru Beaujolais which is step up in quality.
4. And remember about a wine to pair with dessert. Madeira would work well with pumpkin/sweet potato pie, or pecan pie, while a port, would work with chocolate desserts. Looking to shake it up a bit on the dessert wine front? Try an ice wine, or late harvest Riesling, especially with cheesecake. Just remember the dessert wine should be sweeter than the dessert.
Of course, at the end of the day choosing a Thanksgiving wine is truly about what pleases you and yours. There are no hard and fast turkey pairing rules, but there are lots of options to experiment with.