One of the Most Frequently Asked Questions - What Wine Shall We Serve with Turkey?
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed Nov. 15, 2004. For more information go to wineloverspage.com
Every year around this time, the seasonal topic bounces back to the top of the list of most frequently asked wine questions surrounding Thanksgiving Day and the whole round of winter holiday feasts: "What shall we serve with turkey?"
For those in a hurry, here's my standard cut-and-paste reply: Thanksgiving turkey isn't an easy wine match. The light and dark meat are distinctly different, and what matches well with the white breast meat may not sing as pretty a tune with the dark leg and thigh meat.
To find a wine that bridges the gap, think of that familiar holiday condiment, cranberry sauce. It goes well with both light and dark turkey meat as well as most of the traditional trimmings. Look for a wine you like with a similar flavor profile: Fruity, not necessarily bone-dry, but more tart than sweet. Both red and white wines in this style seem capable of bridging wide flavor variations. Try Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Chenin Blanc if you want a white; Pinot Noir, Beaujolais or perhaps a Zinfandel if you prefer a red.
Another approach comes from a completely different perspective: Throw up your hands and recognize that a festive holiday meal is no time to seek wine-geek perfection. No wine is truly capable of achieving food-matching Nirvana with light and dark turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, white rolls and your Aunt Emma's green-bean casserole, so why even try? Instead, take advantage of the holiday to open something special that you've been waiting to enjoy, and share it with family and friends without fretting about whether you're properly marrying red wine with red meat, white wine with white.
If you still feel like going for a wine that will work and play well with most of the dishes on the holiday table, though, allow me to offer a regional suggestion based on recent tastings. Look to the Loire Valley of France for its crisp, minerally and complex white Chenin Blancs and red Cabernet Francs, and you'll find wines of good value, quality and flavor interest that satisfy the Cranberry Sauce Principle and should fare very well on the holiday table.