Tania’s Magical Matches: Wine Pairings for Thanksgiving Turkey

Whole Homemade Thanksgiving Turkey with All the SidesBy Tania Thomas

Thanksgiving is the time of the year when we remember what we are thankful for and a celebration that captures holiday spirit of home cooking like no other. Sharing this day with family and friend is what makes it even more special.

The origins of Canadian Thanksgiving can be traced to two separate events in our history. The arrival of the explorer Samuel de Champlain in the early 17th century, who came with the French settlers to New France and celebrated their successful harvests, even sharing food with the indigenous peoples of the area.

Sliced turkey breast with cranberry sauce and rosemary

The second is the arrival of settlers from New England, when United Empire Loyalists settled in Canada during the American Revolution. With them they brought late autumn Thanksgiving celebrations with the famous gobbler as the main star, and pumpkins and squash in a supporting roles.

The actual dates were changed each year to accommodate different celebrations, until the Parliament fixed our Canadian Thanksgiving as the second Monday in October.

Traditionally, Thanksgiving fare includes juicy roasted turkey, sourdough stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes Garnished roasted turkey on holiday decorated table with pumpkins and glasses of red winesmothered in gravy, zippy cranberry sauce and a selection of fall vegetables, finished with a warm pumpkin or a pecan pie topped with a dollop of whipped cream.

To elevate this most anticipated meal of the year to another level, choose a well suited wine to accompany it, and your Thanksgiving dinner is bound to be a smashing success.

Whether choosing white of red wines, the best suited ones are juicy and fruity, with mouth-watering acidity. They are perfectly suited for the sweet and tart cranberry sauce as well. If white is your preference look for a dry/off-dry highly aromatic fruity Rieslings and ripe Gewurztraminers, with a lingering sweetness and a hint of tart acidity on the finish.

If you prefer reds; a high-acid, low-tannin Pinot Noir with bright cherry and cranberry flavors is a perfect match. Another great choices are Gamay and spicy Grenache-based blends from the France’s Rhone Valley, made with Grenache, Syrah and Mourvédre and loaded with red fruit flavours.

The most versatile style of wine of all is sparkling. With their seductive bubbles, crisp acidity and underlying fruit, this is the wine you can start with as an aperitif, continue throughout your dinner and still enjoy while you are recovering from all that goodness. And if you are a fan of “Friends”, get your “Joe turkey pants” ready and indulge to the last morsel. Here are a few of my favourite Big Bird favorites:

Malivoire GamayMalivoire Gamay 2013, Niagara Peninsula, VQA

As the classic red varietal of Beaujolais, gamay has certainly found its second home in Ontario’s sun-soaked Niagara Peninsula, nestled between the two Great Lakes. Malivoire crafted another great expression of the grape with this juicy and bright medium-bodied beauty. Fresh and fruity on the palate, it’s bursting with aromas and flavours of wild strawberries, ripe cherries, plums and raspberries, with a touch of spice, leading to a long, vanilla-toned finish. Perfectly matched with the Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings.


Valcombe SGChâteau de Valcombe Syrah Grenache 2011, Rhône, France

Château de Valcombe, one of the oldest family owned wine estates in the southern Rhône, has a 300 years long tradition of winemaking and vine growing on their famous galets covered soil. Galets (round rocks/pebbles) retain the heat soaked up during the day and release it at night, ripening the grapes faster while powerful mistral wind carries away the moisture from the air. This is a juicy, fruit forward blend of 50% Syrah and Grenache, abundant with aromas and flavours of cherries, raspberries and cassis. Perfectly paired with roasted chicken, duck or a turkey.


Latour PNLouis Latour Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2012, Burgundy, France

Perfect example of a classic red burgundy at a reasonable price point. Bursting with aromas and flavours of ripe red berries, blackcurrants and blueberries with a whiff of coffee. Elegant and complex with soft, velvety tannins, closes in a lingering, earthy-toned finish. A given as a pairing with turkey roasted to perfection and garlic mashed potatoes.


Nollen RieslingNollen Notorious Rooster Riesling 2012, Mosel, Germany

Delicate and aromatic, this is another Mosel classic. Refreshing and off dry, bursting with aromas of lemon drops, sweet apple, ripe pear and quince with underlying floral notes and a touch of minerality.
Crisp and fruity palate with vibrant acidity and a long clean finish. Incredibly versatile, food-friendly wine. Fantastic with pork, slightly spicy dishes or splashed down with you Thanksgiving turkey.


Deinhard LilaDeinhard Lila Riesling Sekt Trocken

Back in 1843, Deinhard Family was one of the first vintners in Germany to produce sparkling wine. Lila Trocken is their premium label and one of my favourite celebratory sparklers. Aromatic, classy and elegant, vinified with 100% Riesling, it delivers aromas of apples, peaches and apricots with subtle floral notes of lilac. Fine and persistent mousse dances on the tongue in a crisp, smooth, lingering finish. Dry in style, it makes a great companion to creamy appetizers oozing with warm melting cheese. Delightful!!


Copy of June 2012 039Tania Thomas, CSW
Certified Specialist of Wine

As a child, Tania helped her parents pick grapes in her family’s Croatian vineyards, and then later with winemaking. As an adult, she lived abroad in London, England, Milan and Venice, Italy, and explored the food and wine cultures while traveling throughout Europe.

While living in Toronto, Tania completed studies with the International Sommelier Guild (ISG). She continued her wine education with the prestigious, internationally-recognized Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), based in London, England. In 2007, she achieved the WSET Level 3, Advanced Certificate in Wine and Spirits.

In 2013, Tania was awarded with a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) designation by The Society of Wine Educators, based in Washington, DC. She is currently studying for the organization’s Certified Wine Educator designation.

Tania also offers sommelier services and tutored wine tastings, consulting and wine tastings via RunawayGrape.com and is a regular columnist with NatalieMacLean.com as well as the wine expert for Rogers Daytime Television.



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