By Ray Spaziani
Turkey is great Holiday treat and whether it is Thanksgiving or Christmas or New Year’s Day, many a tradition is to gather family and friends and enjoy a great Turkey meal. Perhaps you may include mashed potatoes, yams and cranberry relish, stuffing with various herbs and spices, and don’t forget the pumpkin and maybe some pecan pie! Is there one wine that works with all these varied flavors and aromas? Try some sparkling wines! Sparkling wines bring wonderful food-pairing ability to any meal. My favorite is Prosecco. This is an Italian wine made from the Glera grape and it is made to be consumed young. My favorites are Mionetto and Zardetto. They are inexpensive, low in alcohol, and go great with many varied food dishes.
Food and wine pairing is a very personal endeavor and there are many wines that will work great with your holiday turkey meals both red and white. The classic red for Thanksgiving is Pinot Noir. It has some earthy undertones that match quite well with white and dark turkey and traditional stuffing dishes. One of my favorites though, is Zinfandel. Zin is more intense than Pinot Noir and it is heartier. It still goes great with spice and sweet and bitter flavors and is a killer with the dark meat and still works with the white meat. Many of my wine maker friends love Syrah and Shiraz with their Turkey Fare. These wines have peppery overtones that work great with both white and dark turkey meat and are killers with stuffing. Beaujolais Nouveau has a large contingent of followers for the holiday meals. It comes out the third Thursday of November and it is made to be drunk very young. It is quaffed by the French like a desert traveler who has only had saltines and peanut butter to eat for the past month. It is quite fruity. I find it thin and uninteresting but it has a loyal following. You may want to give it a try.
White wine rules would include ABC, Anything But Chardonnay! Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewuztraminer, Pinot Grigio, Viongnier and Albarino all work with your holiday fare. Dry Riesling from Alsace works great with dishes that are spicy, sweet and/or salty. German and Washington Riesling also work. They have flavors of apricot and apple and honey and lots of acid. Gewurztraminer has a huge nose and is spicy on the palate. It works great with Turkey and gravy. This may be a great alternative for your holiday meal. The wine is delicious and it fills the room with a wonderful bouquet. A Sauvignon Blanc from New Zeeland may be a great choice. These wines taste like you’re biting into a fresh grapefruit. It works with all the foods and works great for those who don’t like wine. Their typical response is, “I don’t like wine but Oh, I like this!” Viognier and Albarino are not well known wine varietals. They work quite well and may shake things up. These wines are some lesser known whites and are wonderful. The typical response is,” where did you hear about this? These are great!”
Pie Pairings would include any fortified wines. This would include Port, Sherry and Late Harvest Riesling. They go great with pumpkin and pecan pie and most other deserts. I like to allow several wine alternatives for my holiday guests. Remember always go white to red and dry to sweet. My suggestion is welcome your holiday guests with sparkling wine. Start out with some nice white wine and when the main course comes out give them a red alternative. Some fortified wine at desert is always nice. If you try this you can only enhance your holiday meals and you will be glad you did.
Enjoy your holiday meals and please email me with your successful wine pairings.
Ray Spaziani is the Chapter Director of the New Haven Chapter of the American Wine Society. He teaches wine appreciation classes at Gateway Community College, The Milford Board of Education and Moltose Beer and Wine Supply. He is a member of the International Tasting Panel of Amenti Del Vino and Wine Maker Magazine. He is an award winning home wine maker. Email Ray with your wine questions and wine events at Ray.Spaziani@gmail.com.