Wines To Pair With Thanksgiving Dinner
That is because there is a wide range of opinions about what pairs best with turkey, a bird that supplies two distinct meat experiences--white breast meat, and dark meat with fattier taste and texture. And then there are the side-dishes--potatoes, turnips, cranberries, stuffing, pearl onions, sweet potatoes, etc. It's a complicated melange of flavors, textures, starches, proteins and vegetables.
Scout the Internet for suggestions, and you will literally find everything from Cabernet Sauvignon to white sparkling wines. There is more agreement in Congress than on what wine, or wines, to serve on Turkey Day.
Individual experts, though, don't have such a wide band of recommendations. Consider what wine writer Thomas Pellechia says about the varietals to consider for turkey and the sides: "Zinfandel is the best red to go with turkey, because its bramble-berry characters stand well against turkey. I don't recommend Pinto Noir, as many do, because the nature of that variety, without a dark blended grape, is delicate and gets run over by turkey."
Among the whites, Pellechia recommends Riesling and Gewurztraminer--Gewurztraminer because its spiciness offsets the turkey's boldness, and Riesling because its acidity and fruit are a terrific foil to turkey's intensity.
Pellechia writes a wine blog, Vinofictions, and wrote " The Complete Idiot's Guide To Starting and Running a Winery, and "Wine, The 8,000 Year-Old Story of the Wine Trade. "I don't like Chardonnay for a traditional turkey dinner because it's generally either too flabby or too oaky...Pinot Grigio is usually too light, but its French counterpart from Alsace, Pinot Gris, is often as bold as Gewurztraminer and will work," says Pellechia.
Beaujolais Nouveau is also a good choice for a red wine, and a bargain. A light, fruity red wine, from the Gamay grape, that goes quite well with turkey and all of the fixings, this wine is released from France on the third Thursday of November, just in time to highlight your Thanksgiving feast!
Knowing the differences of opinion, it is a good idea to perhaps stock a few different wines to allow guests to choose, rather than picking one wine that you expect everyone to be happy with. Of course, if your Thanksgiving is going to be an intimate affair of three to five people, then maybe one or two wines are in order. A table of more than ten, and I'd be tempted to have at least three from which to choose, mixing reds and whites.
Riesling: A white wine that may either be bone dry or fairly sweet, stay with a dry Riesling here. Whether from Alsace, Germany or Washington, Riesling, with its apple and apricot flavors work well, while providing acidity that goes well against turkey meat and herb-filled stuffing, as well as sweet potatoes.
You might try JJ. Prum Auslese Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling 2008 ($48.00) or some of the Rieslings you'll see labeled as coming from Alsace at the high end. At the lower end, I'd recommend Hogue Johan Riesling, Washington State, ($9.00-$12.00). New York State produces some excellent Rieslings, and I'd look for Hermann J. Wiemer and Heron Hill if your retailer carries them. Lucien Albrecht Riesling Reserve 2008. $19.99 is one of the most commonly available good Rieslings.
Gewurztraminer: A wine misunderstood by many casual wine drinkers, it has a robust character and greater spice than Rieslings that is a good counter-point to what can be a very heavy herb-laden meal.
Try Weinbach Gewurztraminer Altenbourg Cuvee Laurence 2005 from Alsace ($50.00) at the high end. At the lower end, I'd recommend, Handley Gewurztraminer from California, 2006 or 2007, ($17.00-$20.00). Good U.S. Gewurztraminers are also coming from Oregon, Washington State, New York State and Ohio.
Pinot Gris: Among my recommendations widely found at wine retailers: From Alsace, Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris 2008 ($20.00); Weinbach Cuvee Lawrence Pinot Gris ($45.00).
Zinfandel: At the moderately high end, look for Napa Valley winery Elyse Zinfandel Morisoli 2004 ($34.99 or $27.50 for the 2007).
Rancho Zabaco, a Sonoma, CA winery, look for the 2004 Toreador Zinfandel ($50.00). Another Sonoma Zinfandel comes from Quivira, its Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel is $34.00. At the lower end, Foxglove Zinfandel 2009 is about $13.00
Don't forget that after a big meal, Port or a digestif liqueur is a great notion to offer to guests. Graham's Vintage Port 2007 ($75.00) is an excellent choice and readily available. And consider Zwack, a Hungarian liqueur seeing a much deserved resurgence in the U.S. ($28.00).