Ah, the perennial feast of the United States — for the foodie it is the ultimate holiday, with its succulent roast turkey surrounded by what seems to be every side dish known to mankind. And those “other” dishes are what makes the wine match a serious challenge.
A wine to go with roast turkey is easy enough: go with a mild-to-medium-bodied red, such as a Pinot Noir from Burgundy, or try a full-flavored white, such as a white Burgundy, a Califoakian Chardonnay, or a Pinot Gris from Alsace. However, the turkey is not the only thing on the table, so what wine can you choose that will go with everything?
There’s an easy answer to this: don’t try to match everything with one bottle. Instead, choose a few bottles with differing characteristics.
OK, that was too easy … and chances are you’re not going to buy eight different bottles of wine to go with the myriad dishes. So, if you’re invited to someone’s home for Thanksgiving dinner, what is an appropriate wine to bring?
The first choice is Champagne; what better way to celebrate a holiday than with bubbles? Forget the cheap stuff — spend some money and get a full-bodied, legitimate Champagne from France. A vintage brut cuvee, rose, or Chardonnay (often called “blanc de blancs”) can carry you through the day, or get a “non-vintage” for about half the price. Choose one from a reputable house such as Pommery, Mumm, Bollinger, Moet, or Perrier-Jouet. Or, if you’re willing to look a little harder, find a sparkler from Billecart-Salmon or Besserat de Bellefon, two houses that are lesser-known but will provide a great bottle to start the day and will have the power to drink throughout the meal (so maybe two bottles would be better!).
The second choice, in my book, is a Beaujolais, such as a Julienas, Moulin-a-Vent, Brouilly, Chenas, Fleurie, or other cru. Beaujolais wines have good acidity and just enough tannins to stand up to a variety of foods. The fresh, fruity ripe cherry flavor matches nicely with just about everything at the table, including the cranberry sauce. In additon to a cru Beaujolais, you may also find it fun to bring along a Nouveau, which is worthwhile as a conversation piece and will be enjoyable for the less-serious wine drinkers (i.e., the white zinners).
The aforementioned Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are not only good matches for turkey, but will also match with a variety of other foods at the table. If you choose a Pinot Noir, the suggestion — as it was with the Champagne — is to take the ducats out of your wallet and lay them down on a real Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France. As you may have seen on Sideways, there is something rather special about these wines; a good Burgundy is more an experience than a mere beverage. What better time to drink it than on a holiday, surrounded by loved ones?
Finally, if you want to have a white wine at the table, go with either a Pinot Gris from Alsace or a German Riesling. Simple Pinot Grigio, such as from Italy, is OK for appetizers, but doesn’t have the substance to follow along to the main course. Conversely, an Alsace Pinot Gris (which is the same grape, but from a different place) has significant weight in the mouth, much fuller bodied, and adds a riper, spicier note that melds well with both the turkey and many of the trimmings. German Riesling — specifically a dry QbA or Kabinett (the designation will be printed somwhere on the label). These wines have a lot of bright, fruit flavors of apple and peach, with searing acidity and mineral notes that pair well with all kinds of foods from creamed onions to sausage and herb stuffing. Perhaps best of all, German Rieslings tend to be around six to eight percent alcohol — not much more than a beer — so you can drink them all day without feeling the effect of wines double in proof.
So there you have it, a quick rundown on several wines to choose from for the Thanksgiving feast. Stop by the site a little later to read about the specific wine I will be serving for bird day.