Turkey is one of the most commonly eaten foods on holidays. In the United States, around 46 million turkeys are eaten every Thanksgiving, 22 million are eaten on Christmas, and nine million on Easter. While no Thanksgiving dinner is complete without a turkey, we believe that no holiday is complete without a complimentary bottle of wine.
While the pilgrims were unfortunately not able to enjoy wine at their Thanksgiving dinner, since it didn’t travel well across the Atlantic, nowadays, we can enjoy a bottle of wine any day of the year. However, on a special holiday like Thanksgiving, not just any old bottle will do. You want something impressive for your guests, something that will compliment the flavor of the turkey and all the sides. But where do you begin?
In this article, we’ll go through some of the basics of selecting wine pairings, what to look for in a great holiday wine, and the types of wine that go best with a turkey.
How to pair wine with food
Selecting a wine to pair with food can seem daunting. It’s a career people devote their entire lives to. But don’t worry; we’ve compiled a few simple tips to help you get started on your wine pairing journey. These are just the basics, so don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun.
- The wine should be more acidic than the food.
- The wine should be sweeter than the food.
- The wine should have the same flavor intensity as the food.
- Red wines pair best with boldly flavored meat, such as red meat.
- White wines pair best with light-intensity meats, like fish and chicken.
- Bitter wines, like reds, are best balanced with fat.
- It is better to match the wine to the sauce, rather than the meat itself.
Using these basic guidelines, you can start developing ideas about what wines you’d like to serve to complement your Thanksgiving dinner. Remember, these are basic guidelines, not hard and fast rules. Just because white wines typically pair well with turkey doesn’t mean you can’t select a great red for Thanksgiving.
How to select a wine for a holiday
If you’re hosting a holiday meal, selecting the perfect wine can be a lot of pressure. You want to accommodate everyone’s taste while also selecting an impressive wine and something that will pair well with everything you’re serving. How do you please everyone without spending thousands of dollars on wine?
Firstly, don’t be afraid to keep it simple. Hosting a holiday dinner is about welcoming your guests, not going over the top to accommodate their every whim. Don’t try and get every person’s favorite wine. Select one type of red and one type of white that complements what you’re serving.
Also, don’t be afraid to get something affordable. Inexpensive doesn’t mean low quality. There are tons of amazing wines out there that won’t break the bank. A great way to get an amazing quality wine for a lower price point is to support smaller brands and try out ones you may not have heard of.
Our last tip is to buy more wine than you think you’ll need. Holidays are about celebration, and nothing kills the mood more than running out of wine. You want your guests to have as many glasses as they like, and you don’t want to have to worry about if you have enough.
Best wines to pair with turkey
Remember, wine pairing is not an exact science. These are just some recommendations based on the basics of wine pairing. If you want to try out something you don’t see on this list, go for it. We highly encourage you to be creative.
A full-bodied Chardonnay is an amazing choice to pair with your turkey. You want to select one oaky richness that exudes sweet spice notes with enough creamy lactic acid to help balance out the meat. In general, good Chardonnays are produced in similar geographical areas to good Pinot Noirs. So if you know of a vineyard producing a great Pinot Noir, give their Chardonnay a shot.
A lovely Chardonnay choice for Thanksgiving is La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay which has sweet, fruity notes, like apricot, lemon, and apple, along with some delectable spice notes to compliment all the Thanksgiving flavors. You’ll also get subtle hints of butterscotch and vanilla, making it a great wine to pair with dessert.
Another fabulous choice is the Rombauer Vineyards Chardonnay. It has notes of tropical fruits and fig jam, paired with beautifully soft spice notes. It also has a lovely, mouthwatering acidity that’s perfect for drinking with turkey.
2. Pinot Noir
If you’re looking for a red option for your guests, Pinot Noir is a great choice. It has bright, high acidity to cleanse the palette, and it’s extremely versatile, so it will go well with all the sides you have on the table, not just the turkey.
The Meiomi Pinot Noir works wonderfully here, with lightly roasted almond, cranberry, and raspberry notes. The jammy fruits notes will pair perfectly with the turkey, just as cranberry sauce does.
The Decoy Sonoma County Pinot Noir is another great choice, with its beautiful layers of black currant, cherry, and strawberry and the subtle notes of spice. It’s soft and silky on the palate, with beautifully balanced acidity.
We also recommend serving the Smoke Tree Pinot Noir with your turkey, with its aromas of black cherry, plum, licorice, and a hint of oak. The finish of this wine is long and fresh, with supple tannins and lingering minerality. Your guests are sure to want a second and third glass.
3. Dry Riesling
Riesling has a bit of a bad reputation, with some accusing it of being sickeningly sweet. However, a nice, dry Riesling can be extremely versatile and delicious, as it’s high in acid and abundant in minerality. Dry Riesling will pair perfectly with your turkey, as well as all the other sides on the table.
The Chateau Ste Michelle Dry Riesling is a heavenly choice. It offers beautiful fruit flavors, crisp acidity, and a wonderfully elegant finish. It has sweet aromas and flavors but is not sickeningly sweet as some rieslings tend to be. It’s perfectly paired with turkey.
Zinfandel is a tried and true Thanksgiving staple, and for a good reason. It’s jammy, juicy, and fruity and pairs well with both light and dark meat. Like many other wines on this list, it’s also very versatile and will pair beautifully with all your Thanksgiving sides.
The Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Zinfandel is a great choice here. It’s an easy-drinking Zin with a great blend of fruit and spice, with a pepper characteristic that creates a distinctive, complex flavor profile that your guests will adore.
We also recommend the Seven Deadly Zins Old Vine Zinfandel. It’s full-bodied and seductive, with lots of jammy berry fruit and aroma notes of leather, oak, and spice. This wine is layered with flavors of dark fruit, currants, and toffee and has a lingering, spice-touched finish.
No holiday is complete without a bottle of bubbly. Champagne is a festive treat for your Thanksgiving meal, but it can also beautifully compliment the flavors of your turkey. Champagne is high in acid and insanely food-friendly, making it perfect for enjoying your holiday meal.
The Moët & Chandon Impérial Brut is a great choice, with its vibrant intensity and freshness. It has notes of apple, fresh nuts, and lemon, along with pear, orange, toasted grain, and sweet butter. It pairs beautifully with turkey and all the other holiday sides.
Of course, if you want to impress your guests and have a higher budget, you can’t go wrong with a bottle of Dom Pérignon. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s so worth it. You’ll taste its maturity in classic toasted notes that provide a beautifully rounded finish. It has fresh acidity and minerality and bright fruit flavors, making it a perfect pairing for turkey.
When shopping for wines to pair with your Thanksgiving turkey, remember:
- Keep it simple. You can never go wrong with a classic.
- Don’t try to get everyone’s favorites.
- Just pick a few wines you know will pair beautifully with the meal you’ve prepared.
Hopefully, this guide will help spark some inspiration the next time you’re hosting a holiday meal.
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