No other holiday celebrates the gift of wine like Thanksgiving. But which wines to pair with turkey and all the side dishes? Here with her tips is Natalie MacLean, who offers Canada’s most popular online wine pairing classes at nataliemaclean.com
What’s your top tip when it comes to pairing wine with Thanksgiving dinner?
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 from sweet creamed corn to more bitter greens and veggies, plus the big bird itself.
So first: Relax. Have a drink.
Start with bubbly. It’s 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.
I’d recommend these two from either coast:
Hester Creek’s Old Vine Brut from BC’s Okanagan Valley, which is made from historic 50-year vines on the Golden Mile Bench, and offers aromas of green apple and biscuit.
Hester Creek Estate Winery Old Vine Brut 2018
Okanagan Valley, British Columbia BC V.Q.A., Canada
From the other coast, I have Blomidon Cremant from Nova Scotia, with notes of fresh white peach and ocean spray.
Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, Canada
Both bubblies are made using the traditional French method.
Great! Where should we go next?
Consider the turkey: Turkey differs from most poultry and game birds in that it’s very dry in texture. Therefore, you need a juicy wine with lots of ripe fruit to complement it.
I’d suggest the Red Rooster Pinot Gris from BC’s Okanagan Valley. It has mouth-watering notes of lemon zest that would moisten the bird.
Red Rooster Winery Pinot Gris 2020
Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, BC V.Q.A., Canada
You could also try the Sea Sun Chardonnay made from vines growing in the cool pockets of Santa Barbara, Monterey and Solano counties in California. It’s California sunshine in a glass with aromas of ripe peach and freshly baked bread.
Sea Sun Chardonnay
California, United States
What about a red wine or rosé?
If you’re a red wine lover, you’ll also want a juicy wine for the bird, like pinot noir, a classic match. Those from the New World, such as Canada, California, Oregon and New Zealand, tend to be fruitier than those from the Old World, such as Burgundy and Germany, which tend to be earthier.
I have the Calera Pinot Noir from the Central Coast of California which is bursting with aromas of ripe strawberries, raspberries and cherries. The bonus is that it’ll also pair well with your cranberry sauce, and let’s face it, that’s why many of us eat turkey – to double down on the cranberry sauce.
Calera Central Coast Pinot Noir 2017
Central Coast, California, United States
I also would recommend a Rosé, this one from Italy, Santa Margherita is just so pretty. Again, it’s got these fresh strawberry notes, so these are lighter options.
Santa Margherita Stilrose Rosé
Riviera del Garda Classico Chiaretto, Lombardy D.O.C., Italy
How about something more full-bodied?
If you want something a bit more full-bodied, with a bit of spice, try a California zinfandel like this 7 Deadly Zins. It’s juicy and smooth yet has more heft than the Pinot. It would also pair well with turducken, that weird concoction of a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck, stuffed into a deboned turkey.
7 Deadly Zins Old Vine Zinfandel
Lodi, California, United States
Umberto Cesari Liano Sangiovese Cabernet Sauvignon
Rubicone, Emilia-Romagna I.G.T., Italy
You’d want to avoid reds with big tannins, which some cabs can have, but not this one, as they’ll taste too dry with turkey. The nuances of complex and well-aged wines, such as Bordeaux, which is a cabernet blend, tend to get lost under the welter of flavours.
You’ve suggested lots of different wines, so how do we choose one or two with all the different side dishes?
Here’s where you get to have fun with mixing and matching. So just as you put out all the side dishes and everyone chooses what they want, do the same with wine.
You can put out all of the wines I suggested here for people to try just a splash to see if it goes with their favourite side or the bird. That includes the bubblies – they’re not just for toasting, you can drink them throughout the meal.
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 the crisp Red Rooster Pinot Gris or one of the bubblies.
With so many flavours on the table, you really can’t run a fowl with your choice of wine.
Count on one bottle of wine for every two people drinking wine at the table.
How about those who don’t drink alcohol?
For children and guests who won’t be drinking, offer non-alcoholic beverages such as plain and flavoured sparkling waters, fruit punch and apple cider.
What about dessert?
End on a sweet note. If anyone still has room left when it’s time for pumpkin or pecan pie, offer a wine with a wine that has a lovely toffeed finish like this Stave & Steel Cabernet that was aged in bourbon barrels.
Stave & Steel Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon
California, United States
Or you could try an icewine, like this one from Peller in Niagara. It has lovely aromas of ripe apricot and honey, perfect for a fruit flan dessert.
Peller Estates Signature Series Riesling Icewine
Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, V.Q.A., Canada
Posted with permission of CTV.