Thursday, November 16, 2023

Turkey wine

The title of this post could have been,"the wine of Turkey," (there are some), or maybe a smarmy statement, like, "This wine is a turkey!" 

What I'm saying with the title, though, is it's time, once again, for the annual suggestions of which wine or wines to serve with "The Bird" on Thanksgiving.


Let me assure you, faithful readers, that I have no intention of suggesting that I know more about your personal tastes in wine and food than you do.  However, I do have a few general ideas to offer you, hoping that they will bring added cheer, and expressions of admiration from your guests gathered around the holiday table. 

So, let's begin. 

Not every Thanksgiving feast is centered around turkey. Plenty of people believe you can celebrate this uniquely American holiday by loading down the table with ham, beef, sausages, or maybe, chicken or duck. 

As a vegetarian, it pains me to think that thousands of sentient creatures will be sacrificed this Thanksgiving, but I understand that it is what it is, and so, I'll give thanks for the plentiful amount of non-meat victuals available during this holiday.

Anyway, the following suggestions are for folks who are undecided about which wine to have or for folks needing some general advice; not for the experienced wine drinker who knows which wine is best, for their tastes, with Thanksgiving  fare.

Before pulling a bottle of wine from the store shelf, or from your personal cache, please remember that the side dishes on your menu, and not the main meat, are the most important consideration when selecting a wine.

A typical American Thanksgiving table is heavy with a selection of sweet and savory dishes, ranging from sweet potato casserole to cranberry sauce to spicy green beans to cornbread and oyster dressing to, well, you get the point. 

There's no one wine that's a perfect match with any of these sides, so let's focus on picking a wine that pairs with turkey and a few other meats. If turkey is on your holiday table, remember that there is both white meat and dark meat on The Bird, so you'll need a wine that goes with both, like Beaujolais or Gamay or Grenache. Any light-medium fruity red will do, including Pinot Noir or Cote de Beaune Burgundy. 

Some people wait all year to pull out a treasured Cabernet, Syrah/Shiraz or Zinfandel, but if you're planning a traditional Thanksgiving meal, you may be disappointed with your choice of a big red over a light and fruity red wine. So save the big rustic Syrahs and tannic Cabernet Sauvignons for another occasion.

A Thanksgiving meal is all about enjoying the food, the day and the people at your table. It would be a shame to spoil all that with searing alcohol and the hard tannin of red wine that call for an entree more substantial than turkey white meat.

Beef is best with a red like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Rhone/Syrah.  Merlot or Grenache are good with roast pork, but a high-end Pinot Noir or red Burgundy will also work nicely.

Some people like to keep the heavy out of the holiday meal, so they go for fish, roast chicken or pork, or just turkey breast meat. For that you might opt for a dry white wine, or even a medium-dry white, one with a little noticeable sweetness.  


Stay with unoaked Chardonnay or Pinot Blanc or a dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer; there are loads of them from Alsace, Germany, Australia, California and New York's Finger Lakes.  

One more caveat: watch the level of oak in white wines, like Chardonnay, since heavy oak, especially if it's new oak, will overpower most light foods.

Dessert is another course that trips people up. Should you even serve wine with dessert? Maybe, but remember holiday desserts are always sweet, no matter if its pumpkin pie or chocolate mousse.  Think of it this way: a sweet dessert will struggle with a sweet wine, with both of them losing.  The solution: Have a late harvest German Riesling or French Sauternes as dessert rather than with dessert. 

Now, before closing this post, let's circle back to non-meat holiday meals. Although there are many ways to go when building a meatless meal, the base really comes down to three meat substitutes.  The most common is tofu, a soy bean product that comes in soft, firm and extra firm textures. Tofurky is a brand of tofu that sells well during the holidays, but I find the flavor and texture of Tofurky an acquired taste.


Another soy meat substitute is the firm fiber-rich Tempeh. The third is Seitan, made from high-gluten wheat.  Often called the "white meat" of meat substitutes, seitan is available in a number of forms, especially from Gardein.

Wine recommendations with any of these meat substitutes is the same as for a meal based on white and dark meat turkey. 

Finally, when a good friend and fellow wine fan, Denis Broderick, who lives outside Belfast, Northern Ireland, read that the next post was titled "Turkey Wine," he wrote me about visiting Vinopolis, in London, a number of years ago and found a computer that allowed him to ask for recommended wines with certain foods. 

Denis entered "roast turkey" and got a short list of 15 wines of various styles and colors. Then, at the bottom of the screen, he noticed "page 1 of 97."  That impressive over kill, made Denis smile and say, "Whatever takes your fancy."

I agree and add, Happy Thanksgiving.


Next blog: Wine Touring in Italy

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