For my readers in the U.S.A., Thanksgiving will soon be upon us. Next week! This means a feast of turkey or ham, or perhaps shellfish (the Northeastern Indians incorporated clam chowder into their diet long before the Pilgrims landed). Turkey, Ham, Fish – sounds like white wine to me – right? Not exactly. While there are no hard and fast rules about which wine to drink with what food, it is a beautiful thing when the wine and food complement each other to bring out the best in your meal.
There are many lovely white wines out there, and yes, they go beautifully with Turkey, Ham and Fish, but when enjoying a day like Thanksgiving, don’t limit yourself to white wine. Definitely start with white. Start with a Prosecco or sparkling white. Enjoy your deviled eggs, baked brie or iced shrimp while sipping an Albariño or Pinot Grigio. Enhance your Fennel and Citrus Salad with a Grüner Veltliner, Vermentino, or Vinho Verde. Yes, these are all white wines and they pair beautifully with your apps and salads. Now, when moving onto the main course, think red. Instead of a Pinot Noir, think about serving a light-bodied Syrah, one grown in a cooler climate such as Washington or Northern Rhône. I recently enjoyed a lovely Syrah; a 2014 Les Vignes d’ à Côté from Yves Cuilleron. If you are unsure of the region where your Syrah comes from (no information on the bottle), check the alcohol level. The lighter syrahs will be under 14% ABV.
A light-bodied Syrah will allow the flavors of the turkey or ham to come through and will not overwhelm any seafood you are serving. Another light bodied red to consider serving to your guest would be a Côtes du Rhône.
There is a lot to learn about a Côtes du Rhône wine. I’m not going to expand on it now, but I will tell you these are the basic wines of the Rhône region. They come in a red, white, and rosé variety. I’m talking about the red right now. The reds contain a blend of Grenache noir, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignane, Counoise and Mourvèdre grapes varieties. Not all reds will have all varieties, but they will all have Grenache in the blend. Look for a Southern Rhône, one that is medium to light in color. You can pair this wine without worry. This wine will not upstage anything you’re serving to your guests for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner; turkey, goose, ham, pork roast.
If you really want a white wine to go with your turkey, then try to find a Roussanne. Roussanne is a white wine grape grown in the Rhône region of France, typically used as a blending grape, this grape makes a fabulous wine all on its own. You will also find this grape in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This grape is also found growing in California, Washington as well as Australia, Italy and Spain. My favorite Roussanne wines come from France. With honey and pear notes, together with a light acidity, you will find a French Roussanne is the wonderful complement to your turkey.
Of course you will be serving much more than just the protein. You will certainly have potatoes, perhaps both mashed and sweet, and a green vegetable, possibly a green-bean casserole or asparagus with parmesan cheese. If you’re not serving sweet potatoes, you’re sure to have butternut squash. Carrots may make their way to your table, along with corn and onions. And, if you’re serving turkey, don’t forget the stuffing (I make mine with apples and sausage), and cranberry sauce. For those of you serving ham, you’ll need to add some bourbon-orange glaze to this list. Now, just how well will a Roussanne, Syrah or Côtes du Rhône wine go with all of this? Perfectly!
Has anyone mentioned pie lately? For dessert, you will want to bring out a different style of wine. If you’re serving pumpkin pie (yum, my favorite), try to steer clear of the sweet dessert wines, look for something with a little raisin and hazelnut flavor to it. Something along the line of Amontillado style of Sherry. Yes, Sherry. This will bring out the cinnamon/nutmeg goodness of your pumpkin pie.
For apple pie, one leaning towards the tart side, I would suggest a rich white dessert wine, perhaps a German Riesling or Sauterne. Pecan pie calls for Madeira.
If you are completely stuffed and cannot eat one more bite, end your festivaties with Iced Wine. I particularly like the Ice Wine that comes from the Finger Lakes area of Up State New York or the Quebec region of Canada. Okay, so you may want a slice of aged cheddar or Vermont Plymouth Blue Cheese to go with this, go ahead, it’s Thanksgiving.