5 Tips to Pick the Best Thanksgiving Wines: Gobbling Good


In the CTV News video above, we chat about how no other holiday celebrates the gift of wine like Thanksgiving. Wine is a taste of the harvest along with all the delicious dishes on the table.

But actually choosing a bottle can feel like a thankless task, especially with so many flavors to match.

Relax. Have a drink.

Try some of my suggestions for great wines to pair with Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings. These are some of my favourite wines for Thanksgiving.

Here are my five quick tips for choosing a terrific Thanksgiving wine:

1. Start with bubbly. Sparkling wine is a great aperitif to sip while you wait for the turkey to finish cooking. It adds a celebratory note to the meal and goes well with starters like soup and salad.

2. Consider the turkey. Unlike most poultry and game birds, turkey meat is very dry in texture. So you need a mouth-watering wine to complement it. Good options are crisp whites like riesling and pinot grigio. And yes you can drink red wine with white meat: pinot noir, beaujolais and zinfandel all have juicy, berry-ripe flavors that go well with turkey.

Roasted turkey

3. Look beyond the bird. The range of side dishes means that you don’t have to match your wine just to the turkey. Since Thanksgiving dinner is often a banquet-style meal, with everyone choosing the trimmings, why not do the same with your wines? Offer both red and white, and possibly more than one depending on the size of your group.

4. Complement or contrast. A big, buttery Chardonnay from California or Chile can complement the roasted, smoky flavors of squash, chestnuts and pecan stuffing. But if you’d rather have a contrast to the richness of cream sauces and dressings, try a crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

5. End on a sweet note. If anyone still has room left when it’s time for pumpkin or pecan pie, offer a late harvest wine or icewine. If you’re a chocolate fan, try serving a liqueur with complementary flavors such as raspberry or blackcurrant.

My online wine and food matching tool allows you to click on “turkey holiday dinner” to find wines that accompany all kinds of dishes, from roast turkey to turducken, from creamed corn to pecan pie. You can also pair wine with other seasonal fall produce, game meats, pizza, egg dishes, TV dinners, breads and desserts.

I update the drinks matcher regularly in response to readers’ suggestions for more dishes and wines. Got a dish or a wine to stump me? Post it below. Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted with permission of CTV News.

5 Tips to Pick the Best Thanksgiving Wines: Gobbling Good

Leanne: It doesn’t matter if you’re having turkey or lamb or ham. Natalie MacLean has a suggestion. She’s actually brought along comfort food wines for later. Yes we know you notice the Veuve but we’re going to start on this side of the counter Natalie.

Natalie: Sure.

Leanne: With your suggested picks for this weekend.

Natalie: Absolutely. If you want to start to the far left, we have a wonderful Sparkling wine from Henry of Pelham called Catharine Brut it’s only $35 about half the price of a Champagne yet made with the Champagne methods and grapes. A great way to toast your Thanksgiving dinner, get it off to a bubbly start.

Leanne: And this is a Niagara?

Natalie: It is and I love what we’re doing with Sparkling wines in Niagara. We have a cool climate just like Champagne and we’re making some terrific Sparkling wines.

Leanne: So for those who always look for something that says the traditional method?

Natalie: Yes.

Leanne: This would be it?

Natalie: This would be it … same grapes and same method. Of course Champagne is trademarked for the Champagne region of France but you’re going to find that it’s really comparable in quality.

Leanne: Now we go through, so you’ve started with your toast.

Natalie: Yes.

Leanne: Then we’re moving over to a Riesling.

Natalie: That’s right Riesling, mouth-watering and juicy. It really helps to moisten turkey meat and we need to do that at our house usually because of the way we cook. We fix cooking mistakes with wine. So a juicy white wine from Niagara is perfect and this one will have just a touch of sweetness so it goes with side dishes like your stuffing and your cranberry sauce.

Leanne: Now I tease Natalie that she brings this wine along because she loves to say it.

Natalie: Gewurztraminer.

Leanne: Say it again.

Natalie: Yes, gewürztraminer.

Leanne: So a gewürztraminer is reserved.

Natalie: Right, we’re still in Niagara because I think Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to celebrate our local harvest both wines and foods. So this is from Reif Estates … great producer. Gewürztraminer literally translates to spice wine. So if you’re thinking stuffing, if that’s your favourite dish, you don’t always have to match just the turkey. Although this will work with the turkey, match it with your side dishes as well.

Leanne: Now if you were having lamb or ham as I mentioned would you choose these wines or would you move to heavier?

Natalie: You need to drink what you like. If you like whites go with it. If I wanted to sort of harmonize and really get a great flavour combination going, I would go with more full body wines like this Australian Shiraz. It would be wonderful because lamb is juicy and meaty.

Leanne: Now, this Australian Shiraz is how much a bottle?

Natalie: It’s only about $13 so you don’t have to spend a lot.

Leanne: I knew it was $13 that’s why I asked you because our viewers love to know when one of your picks is under $15. So we’re going to get back to the Rosé.

Natalie: Yes.

Leanne: Then you have a little bit of a comparison between these two.

Natalie: Yes, I’ve got a side by side they’re both Pinot Noir. This one is from Chile and is $13 as well. This one if from Niagara $38. Now this one isn’t over priced from Niagara. I have to add that it’s one of my favourite all-time ultimate turkey wines.

Leanne: And I want you to emphasize that because as I said just before the break you taste thousands and thousands of wines, and this one from here in Niagara you say is …

Natalie: …is one of my favourites and we’re having this one this weekend and here’s the reason why. The price difference is that we have a cool climate here so the winemakers are dealing with pests and rot and low yields but that makes a beautifully concentrated, complex wine. This one is also very tasty but it’s more straightforward and they’ve got a warmer climate there so the costs aren’t as high.

Leanne: And we are comparing the two wines, this is a little bit of a premier that you shared with us on another visit which I found fascinating, when you buy an imported wine how much money goes into our economy?

Natalie: Very little like 48 cents something like that.

Leanne: And when you buy a Canadian wine?

Natalie:  $7 or $8. You’re supporting not only jobs in the wine industry but tourism and all of the off shoots. It’s pretty powerful.

Leanne: And of course, you’re able to re-watch this segment if you wanted to get in close on those labels again and here Natalie say what the wines are. I intentionally skipped the Rosé because a lot of wine experts feel that the Rosé is so underrated and it’s not in your estimation, you love a Rosé.

Natalie: Love it and this is bone dry. It comes from France … Southern France. So what I love about Rosé is that it packs the flavour of a red wine without the heaviness and so it has a lot of mouth-watering, juicy action going on for your turkey. It’s also very festive so it’s going to look lovely on the table.

Leanne: That’s why people like to read what you write, mouth-watering, juicy action. You know I very rarely hear a wine writer describe a wine like that. When we come back after the break, Natalie is going to take some time to talk about comfort foods because as the weather gets colder, we want to eat those foods and Natalie thinks you should be drinking something appropriately paired with those comfort foods, Michael?

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2 thoughts on “5 Tips to Pick the Best Thanksgiving Wines: Gobbling Good

  1. I love your site and have so enjoyed it! Thanksgiving, as well as Christmas, are such difficult holidays for pairing. Our table adds an extra note of difficulty as our family has a strong Italian heritage. Therefore, pasta (with a red sauce) is always included above and beyond the traditional fare. Do you have any suggestions for a wine to fit our table?? I tend to lean towards a zin or possibly a shiraz – but those happen to be my favorites!

    1. You’re in luck! Try an Italian red with those dishes such as a Valpolicella or since you like full-bodied reds, how about an amarone from Masi? Your shiraz and zin will also work, but you may want to experiment this year with some robust Italian reds

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