It’s one of the age-old questions: which wine to serve with turkey. Thanksgiving dinners tend to be large gatherings, encompassing at least a dozen friends and family members. How do you serve an enjoyable wine without breaking the bank—particularly if your relatives don’t have the same level of appreciation you do? Here, I offer up a few wines all can be thankful for.
Thanksgiving is a celebration, so start with some bubbles. An Italian Prosecco such as Mionetto or Nino Franco will work just fine, or you can enjoy a good-value French Champagne such as Nicolas Feuillatte NV Brut.
Cabernet Sauvignon—The False Scent
A full-bodied, powerful Cabernet Sauvignon is almost always a real mismatch with turkey. Remember that Cabernet contains serious tannins, which complement dairy or animal fat; this is the reason it pairs so well with cheese or steak. Turkey, however, isn’t marbled with fat and is usually a poor accompaniment to Cabernet. If you’re a wine enthusiast or beginning collector, resist the temptation to break out that bottle of Cabernet you’ve been waiting to try.
If you want to drink red wine, this is probably the best match of all—it’s no accident that most French recipes for game birds call for red Burgundy. The smooth, silky texture of Pinot Noir is a charm with turkey. Look for a Bourgogne Rouge or a middle-range Pinot from Oregon, such as Ponzi or Rex Hill.
Beaujolais shares many of the characteristics of Pinot Noir and would be an excellent choice—provided you don’t serve Nouveau. Go for a Beaujolais from one of the ten crus (Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly, Régnié, Chiroubles, Julienas, Chénas, Fleurie, Saint-Amour, Morgon and Moulin-A-Vent). These are concentrated, sexy wines that are amazing values for money. When in doubt, the Flower Bottle series from Georges Duboeuf is a good choice; even better are the wines from Chateau des Jacques, the Beaujolais estate owned by Louis Jadot.
An off-dry white can be an excellent match with turkey. Choose a basic German estate wine, or a Riesling from Alsace. The richness of texture and off-dry character will work admirably, particularly when paired with good acidity. Consider an entry level wine from Trimbach; a Mosel or Rheingau producer such as J.J. Prum, von Kesselstatt, Johannishof or Knyphausen; or an American Riesling such as Eroica from Washington State.
Serving chocolate or strong cheese for dessert? In that case, bring on the Cabernet.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press; his second book, Moonshine Nation, is forthcoming from Lyons Press in June 2014. For more information, go to amazon.com