Wine choice important at Thanksgiving dinner
Wines with Thanksgiving turkey. The calls start coming soon after people flip their calendars from October to November; they realize that Thanksgiving is coming. And the question is always the same: what wine do I serve with Thanksgiving turkey?
One lady asked if I had a copy of the column I had written back in November 2003; she’d lost her dog-eared copy and wanted another because she liked the suggestions made in that one. So, maybe it’s time to review that old column and bring it up to date. In essence, the answer to the question of what to serve was — it depends.
There are many different styles of Thanksgiving dinners from the old traditional one with stuffed turkey and all the trimmings, to maybe a barbecued turkey on the grill, or just a big turkey breast with only white meat, to a turkey sandwich with potato chips in front of the TV while you watch the Lions lose (usually).
Each of these styles cries out for a different style of wine. With the big traditional turkey dinner, and if you’re having a group for dinner, you might want to serve several wines; start off with a nice sparkling wine with aperitifs, like Domaine Chandon Brut or Korbel Brut, then with the main course serve a nice Chardonnay like that of Kendall- Jackson (it’s just a touch sweet so it will hold up to those candied yams or fruit salad) or you might want a light red like a Clos du Bois Pinot Noir. Then when it’s time for dessert, a nice Late Harvest Riesling like that of Chateau Grand Traverse goes well with pumpkin pie. Or, you could use those champagne glasses again, this time with an Asti Spumante like that of Tosti of Italy.
The barbecued turkey with all those southwestern flavors calls for something just a bit spicier. I’d start off with a Gewürztraminer like that of Fetzer or Chateau Chantal of Michigan, but the ones from Alsace are also spicy but much drier if you prefer a less sweet wine. You’ll need a much heartier red wine to match up with the robust flavors so a Shiraz from Australia or California would do the trick, ones like Penfolds or Greg Norman, Delicato or Bogle. And with dessert the Asti Spumante would still be the choice.
If it’s just a light Thanksgiving dinner with just a turkey breast, the white meat will work best with a lighter wine. A nice dry or semi-dry Riesling or Pinot Blanc would match up nicely. The floral bouquet of these wines liven up the turkey breast but still have enough body to hold up to mashed potatoes with gravy.
You could progress from a dry to a semi-dry Riesling from aperitifs to dinner, and then finish off with a Late Harvest or Sweet Riesling like those from Pacific Rim with dessert.
If you’re just going to park in front of the TV, have turkey sandwiches, chips and other snack bits then I’d recommend something like the new Beaujolais Nouveau which should be out on the shelves a few days before Thanksgiving.
The new 2012 vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau by Georges Deboeuf, just picked in August, bottled in September and here in November is a great picnic kind of wine and it’s timely. Or, if you’re looking for something just a bit bigger then go with the truly American wine, Zinfandel, from Cline or Dancing Bull. Maybe pecan pie with a little Port would be a nice finish to this informal meal.
So, as you can see — it really depends! But the important thing is that Thanksgiving is really about the bounty of the harvest, a time for family and friends to come together, a time to give thanks for the time we have together and how lucky we are to be here in America with all that entails. So, no matter what the wine, what you’re having for dinner, who might be joining you for the occasion, raise a glass high and toast to another year and continued good fortune.
Enjoy the day! — Dave Ethridge is a nationally known wine writer, certified wine judge, and the director of the Lapeer Chapter of Tasters Guild International.
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