Choosing wine to enjoy with Thanksgiving dinner can prove to be a bit of a daunting task to many hosts hoping to make a good impression. Due to the myriad of tastes, flavours, and textures offered by a roasted turkey dinner and all the fixings, wine needs to be chosen carefully. Elements of the meal, such as white and dark meat, squash, sweet potatoes, herb stuffing, cranberry sauce, and savoury gravy, need to be taken into consideration.
Following the rule of serving white wine with poultry is always a safe bet, and while there are some wonderful whites that pair beautifully with turkey dinner, you don’t need to turn your back on all red wines. No matter what colour of wine you choose, it should be relatively high in acid, low in tannin, and lighter in weight, with moderate alcohol, and little to no oak. And, don’t forget about rosé!
The following wines pair well with most of the elements of Thanksgiving dinner and are sure to be a hit with your dinner guests.
Champagne and Other Sparkling Wine
Sparkling wine always adds an element of celebration to any occasion and is also a very versatile wine to pair with food. Both white and rosé versions pair well with turkey dinners. Most Champagne is a combination of delicacy and power. Its delicacy prevents it from overpowering some of the more subtle flavours in the meal, while its power enables it to cut through even the richest of gravies. Champagne and other good quality sparkling wine has great complexity which means it will match with many of the flavours in the turkey and many of the side dishes.
If you’re serving a large group of people, Champagne may be a bit hard on the wallet. Wine from France labelled as Crémant are great value sparkling wines made using the traditional method, the same method used to make Champagne. (For more information on the traditional method, please read “A Very Brief History of Champagne”.)
Riesling is a great wine to match with a range of dishes. Its high acidity makes it very food friendly, especially with sweet, salty, and rich dishes. An aromatic grape with flavours of apple, apricot, and honey, Riesling also offers an intense minerality which cleanses the palate as it washes the food down.
Look for either dry or off-dry Rieslings for Thanksgiving dinner. Germany, Alsace, and Austria provide some excellent examples.
Any Chardonnay you choose should not be too oaky, however a little bit of oak will match the roasted, caramelly flavours of the turkey. Chardonnay’s buttery texture and flavours also pair beautifully with squash and sweet potato.
White Burgundy (including Chablis) made from the Chardonnay grape, can be wonderful partners to Thanksgiving dinner. Ontario’s cool climate also produces some excellent Chardonnays.
Dry or off-dry rose wines can also be great with a roasted turkey dinner. The ripe red berry flavours can be a great contrast to some of the more savoury flavours of the meal providing added complexity. It’s pretty pink colour also adds a festive element to the table.
Many French wine regions produce fun and delicious rosé wines. Tavel and Provence are two examples of regions that make dry rosé of excellent value.
The most famous wines made from Gamay hail from the French wine region of Beaujolais. These wines are typically light-bodied with fresh red berry flavours. They are the quintessential red wine for turkey dinners. They can even be served slightly chilled. Ontario also produces some nice wine from Gamay. Ontario versions tend to be a bit bigger with more of a black pepper spice to them.
Pinot Noir is another great choice if you are looking for a red wine to serve with turkey, adding an element of elegance and sophistication to the meal. Typically light to medium-bodied with aromas and flavours of earth and red fruit, Pinot Noir can act as a substitution to cranberry sauce.
Pinot Noir from Burgundy is the benchmark for this grape, but good examples can also be found from Ontario, Oregon, New Zealand, and Chile.
Tasty and refreshing, the Italian grape Barbera from Piedmont can be a wonderful match with roasted turkey. Full of bright fruit flavours and mouthwatering acidity, this grape makes a great food wine. Barbera is usually medium-bodied and not overly oaked – some examples have no oak at all.