The question is always asked: Which wine pairs best with turkey and the typical accompaniments of a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner?
The answer has evolved over the years and is now: whatever you typically fancy. Yes, there are classic wine pairings to be had with the traditional fare – pinot noir for red and viognier for white. The reasoning is pretty simple. The classic meal is not flamboyant, spicy or full of fat, and these two wines will not overpower the meal but quietly accompany the feast.
However, with years of vinous autonomy, it has become more apparent that not everyone likes pinot noir or viognier and that cabernet sauvignon, sweet riesling, pinot grigio and zinfandel will work just fine – that is, with a few hints to aid in the plating of the grandiose meal.
Typically, cabernet sauvignon pairs best with a hearty steak such as a ribeye or a New York. The heavy tannins (think cat’s tongue) that cabs are known for are smoothed out by fat. Turkey doesn’t offer the meal much fat, but the gravy certainly does. If you are the classic cabernet connoisseur, it’s helpful to use a bit more gravy over the bird, mashers and stuffing.
There aren’t nearly as many zinfandel fans as there are cabernet fans, but zinfandel certainly is an excellent wine to match with cranberry sauce. Albeit, these wines will also overpower turkey, but to help them marry better, it’s best to add extra cranberry sauce to the turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes. Ripe fruit forward wine with ripe fruit – voilà, perfect pairing!
For white wine lovers, all options can work. As before, there are ways to fix the pairings of wines that don’t naturally match up with what you’re eating. In general, however, viognier and creamy, oaky chardonnays are best suited for the meal. The supple nature of these two varietals harmoniously complement the traditional dishes.
Clean, crisp white wine and rosé drinkers are also in great shape. Depending on the acidity of your crisp white or rosé, there are simple aids to better the pairing. For New Zealand sauvignon blanc drinkers, adding extra salt or gravy to the plate may help balance out the high acidic nature of those wines. Most pinot grigios and rosés will be great because of their softer-than-sauvignon-blanc acids. Lovers of sweeter whites will benefit from the addition of cranberry sauce. Oddly enough, sweet wines benefit from sweet fruit, with both elements canceling out each others sweetness – a fascinating anomaly.
As for the grand finale of pumpkin and pecan pie, look no further than a classic tawny port. These amber-colored, aged dessert wines pair magically with the earthy sweet flavors of the classic dessert pies.
Alan Cuenca is an accredited oenophile and owner of Put a Cork in It, a Durango wine store. Reach him at email@example.com.