Thanksgiving is coming and for 88% of Americans this means turkey dinner. Pairing wine with turkey and other traditional Thanksgiving dishes can be challenging because of the mix of flavors. Turkey and gravy carry savory and umami flavors, mashed potatoes are buttery, cranberry sauce is tart, and candied yams are sweet. Here are some suggestions for navigating this minefield of flavors to pair wine with Thanksgiving dinner:
Conventional wisdom would have you believe that you are violating some universal law of physics if you serve red wine with poultry. However, in a famous study conducted in 2001, wine experts were given a glass of white wine and a glass of the exact same wine with a few drops of red food coloring to give the illusion that the glasses contained different wines. The wines were, in fact, the same. However, these wine experts rated the wines differently and used different words to describe the taste and aroma of the wines.
There are two lessons from this. First, when shopping for wine online, get wines that you love or sound interesting to you. The tasting notes and ratings are helpful, but you need to trust your own tastes. Second, the conventional rules are meant to be broken. If you have a favorite red wine and think it would pair well with turkey, buy one (or several) bottles of that wine online and serve it at Thanksgiving.
There are a few things to remember if you do choose to serve a red wine for Thanksgiving. When pairing food and wine, you will likely look for wines without strong flavors so you do not overpower the food. Turkey is very subtle (or even bland, according to some) and can get lost among stronger flavors.
Red wines with high tannin levels usually do not pair well with turkey. The bitterness and astringency can numb the tongue to the food’s flavors. Some low tannin red wines you can buy from online wine sellers include Pinot Noir and German Riesling. Also, remember to open the bottle 30 minutes or so before dinner. Red wine mellows when it is allowed to breathe. Moreover, the ideal serving temperature for red wine is between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the breathing time allows the wine to reach this temperature.
If you want to serve a white wine, again, trust your tastes. Peruse your online wine shop and look for a white wine or variety you love and serve it at Thanksgiving. If you need suggestions for a white wine that will pair well with your turkey dinner, look for a white wine that is not aged in oak. Oaky white wines, like oaked Chardonnay, can overpower the flavors of the food. Low oak Chardonnay or white wines stored in steel barrels, like Riesling, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc, are less likely to overpower your turkey. All of these varieties can be found easily during your wine online shopping before Thanksgiving.
Red and White
What if you cannot decide? Splurge the next time you shop for wine online and buy both red wine and white wine for Thanksgiving dinner. By serving a few different wines with Thanksgiving dinner, you allow your guests to choose what tastes best for them. Just provide each guest with two wine glasses, one for red and one for white. This prevents the wines from mixing and allows you to serve each wine at its ideal temperature.
While you are shopping for wine deals online, do not forget to check out some sparkling wines. Sparkling wines are commonly associated with celebrations and there is no better time to pop open a bottle of dry California sparkling wine than Thanksgiving dinner. Dry sparkling wines are commonly paired with buttery flavors because the crisp flavors and textures cut through the fat. There is nothing more buttery and fatty than mashed potatoes and gravy.
To end the meal, buy sweet sparkling wine online that enhances the flavors and aromas of the savory and spiced desserts served at Thanksgiving dinner like pumpkin or apple pie.
Wine pairing for Thanksgiving dinner is not a mystery. Feel free to serve red or white wine and look for subtle flavors that will not overpower the food.