This is an updated version of last year’s What Wine to Serve With Turkey post. I’ve added a fourth wine.
It is that time of the year again. We’re all turning our minds towards preparing for the Thanksgiving dinner. Those of us who know a little bit about wine start getting asked “what wine goes with turkey?”
Well, quite a few wines go with turkey. But the problem with a Thanksgiving Feast isn’t pairing wine with turkey, but with turkey and stuffing and yams and salad and cranberries and all the other sides. The American Thanksgiving feast is typically not served in courses, but all piled onto the same plate. This complicates wine pairings significantly. Our traditional Thanksgiving meal is a confused orgy of savory and sweet all served at once which makes wine pairing a real challenge.
Since I have been asked, at least three times in the last week, what wine goes with turkey, I thought I’d make my suggestions in a blog post. Clever, no?
Our family often starts the meal with a sparkling wine, or a cocktail made with sparkling wine. But you could serve a sparkling wine with the entire meal. Sparklings aren’t just for cocktails any more. The bubbles really help to balance with the rich fats and flavors. If you do opt to serve a sparkling wine with the entire meal, I would suggest a dry Prosecco, not extra dry. You’ll want that little bit of sweetness so that the Prosecco goes well with all the sweeter items on the menu.
If you don’t have enough champagne flutes to serve the army that is showing up for dinner it is fine to serve the sparkling wines in regular glasses. Just avoid those old shallow bowled glasses that some serve champagne in. They are entirely inappropriate for sparkling wines and can be better used to serve desserts.
Maybe bubbles give you a head ache, or Aunt Clara hates the French and can’t tell prosecco from champagne. How about serving a Rose instead?
Yes, I know it’s going to be 36 degrees outside and possibly snowing where you are, but I’m serious, a Rose is a great pairing for the Thanksgiving meal. A nice dry Rose will have the berry flavors that will complement the cranberries. A Rose will also have the crispness that goes well with feasting foods along with the structure to stand up to the richer flavors. I am a huge fan of Andis Wines’ Rose. This is actually what I’m planning to serve on Thanksgiving.
But, wait, you say, Rose isn’t red and you can’t possibly stomach a Rose or a Chardonnay. Well, you’ll note that I haven’t suggested a Chardonnay. I’m not a Chard fan in general, and I can’t recommend a wine that doesn’t go with the entire meal. There are those that disagree with me and do serve Chardonnay on Thanksgiving, but I’m going to pass on the buttery hell of California Chardonnay and suggest a red wine. Yes, Red with a white meat.
Think about turkey for a minute. If it’s brined and roasted, basted with butter and bacon fat, stuffed with Italian sausage or oyster stuffing, that is no delicate white meat. It’s pretty robust and demands a wine with a little substance. So, yeah, a red wine. I’d suggest a Gamay Beaujolais. The Gamay Beaujolais is often served with Lamb or beef stews, but I think its it’s light body and nice acidity combined with it’s berry flavors would pair well with a Thanksgiving meal.
I can practically hear you shaking your head wondering what I’m talking about. Mead is a honey wine, usually augmented with spices or fruit as flavoring. A traditional “old world” style mead is often flavored with spices we see at the Thanksgiving table: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and the like. That makes it a great pairing with a traditional American Thanksgiving meal. If there is a meadery in your area, check them out and ask which of their meads they’d suggest for dinner. We’ll be serving a Nani Moon mead that we picked up in Kauai this summer.
Those are my suggestions for what wine to serve with turkey. They are based on the fact that most of us aren’t just sitting down to a turkey. There are a passel of side dishes that are ultra savory AND super sweet. Finding a wine that pairs with all of those is a challenge. Sparkling wine, Rose, Gamay Beaujolais, and Mead are the wines that I think pair best with all of those things at the one meal.
Don’t spend a fortune on wine for the Thanksgiving meal. Depending on how many people you are hosting, or bringing wine for, the cost of the wine could break your budget. Many of the people at the table won’t be wine drinkers and won’t know a good wine from a bad wine. This is one of those situations when getting a moderately priced good wine is a better use of your money than buying an expensive amazing wine. Thanksgiving is all about the fellowship of family and friends. It ain’t about the wine.
And for those who are aghast that I am suggesting Prosecco and Gamay Beaujolais, European wines, in the post immediately following my post about drinking locally because of the carbon footprint of imported wines, deal with it. Thanksgiving is a feast, a special occasion, a rare gathering of family and friends that warrants some special wines.
But you can of course substitute a domestic sparkling wine, Deaver and Nine Gables are two Gold Country wineries that make fine sparkling wines that would pair wonderfully with any Thanksgiving meal. I also think that a Pinot Noir would be a great substitute for the Gamay Beaujolais. The grapes are related genetically and the flavor profiles are similar, though the Pinot Noirs are a medium bodied wine. So hunt for those Santa Cruz Mountain Pinots if you can’t find a Gamay Beaujolais.