I chuckle when I read the wine pairing ideas that food magazines offer annually for the turkey dinner. Columnists are all over the map with their selections. How can one writer recommend a big, spicy Malbec, while a second touts a sweet Riesling, and a third aficionado insists that Burgundy is a must? Turns out, each of these makes sense. So, to save yourself the stress of choosing just the right turkey wine, focus instead on your side dishes.
The Traditional Trimmings
Thanksgiving staples represent the ultimate comfort food, and boy, are they rich! If you’re going to be indulging in cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes ‘n gravy, and green bean casserole, you’ll need a big wine to stand up to all of that richness. You can add some zing to these heavy foods in two ways: You could offer a juicy, endowed California Zinfandel, which will stand up to fat and create a snap in your mouth with its famous spice. Consider ’08 Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel ($14) for some sassy, all-American juice. Or else, opt to venture into the unconventional. When I first heard of Australian Sparkling Shiraz, I winced. But now, I understand its purpose. This fun and zany red sparkling wine will not only marry well with the Thanksgiving feast—it will be the conversation piece of the holidays! A favorite is The Black Chook Sparkling Shiraz ($15).
The Italian-American Feast
Italians have a delectable spin on Turkey Day. Carved turkey and the ‘fixins have some stiff competition when laid out next to Grandma’s lasagna and eggplant parmesan. It’s gonna take a red wine with some lean muscle to stand up to tart tomato sauce. An Italian red like ’08 La Nunsio Barbera d’Asti ($12) is up for the task. Likewise, Mendoza Argentina, with its large Italian-transplant population, is also in the game. Offer ’08 Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda ($9) to enliven your festive Sunday ragu fusion.
The Vegetarian Version
When a meal isn’t built around turkey, the possibilities are many. If the main focus is squash, a floral white can really make flavors pop. A dry Alsatian Riesling or Austrian Gruner Veltliner will bring out the inherent sweetness of squash and match the delicate mouth-feel of this fruit, both for under $15. Going the grain route? These substantial dishes tend to be less rich, and are more “earthy” compared to, let’s say, sweet potato pie. Similar bodied wine will add dimension. Try ’07 Domaine de Fontenille Cotes du Luberon with the millet stuffing I write about in my turkey sides dishes blog post. Omit the sausage and add some hot pepper flakes. This can be a meal in itself!
When In Doubt
Just remember, match the weight of the wine to the weight of the dish…and when in doubt, use sparkling wine as your default. The All-American Gruet Blanc de Noirs ($15) is a great pick.
Tell us in the comments: How do you choose which wine to serve at Thanksgiving?