Selecting the right wine to serve with a special dinner can be one of the biggest challenges in planning a celebration. But with the wide variety of flavors — savory green beans, candied sweet potatoes, tart cranberry sauce, creamy mashed potatoes, rich pecan pie — selecting the right wine for Thanksgiving dinner can seem downright impossible.
Fortunately the common centerpiece of the meal that prevails year after year is the traditional roasted turkey.
Much like chicken, roasted or baked turkey is generally straightforward with its light and neutral taste and texture and an easy wine pair-up. As long as you don’t choose a bold, full-bodied robust wine that will overwhelm the bird, most options are usually a safe bet. But when we start adding the dressing (or stuffing, if you prefer) to this beloved bird we begin the pairing dilemma.
Dressing flavors can be nutty, spicy, earthy and even sweet. That’s a lot to expect from a single wine. As we do in all ideal wine and food pairings, be sure to start with the main flavors in the dish.
Traditional Thanksgiving stuffing (white bread and/or cornbread, celery, onion and sage) matches well with the light refreshing flavors of viognier, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc.
- 2010 Wente Vineyards Louis Mel Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $13 retail)
- 2010 Presqu’ile Santa Barbara Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $22 retail)
Dressings with dried fruits such as cherries, apples and pears need a wine with touch of sweetness like an off-dry Riesling to complement the fruit.
- 2010 Franken Silvaner Spatlese Riesling, Germany (about $14 retail)
- 2009 Rudi Wiest Monchhof Estate Riesling, Germany (about $20 retail)
Wild rice brings a nutty flavor to stuffing. A fresh fruity red merlot is an excellent complement.
- 2009 Michel Lynch Merlot, France (about $12 retail)
- 2009 Bell Wine Cellars Yountville Merlot, California (about $36 retail)
Mushroom stuffing is one of the most wine-friendly you can serve. If other ingredients do not overpower the earthy flavors it shines with pinot noir.
- 2009 Concannon Winery Central Coast Pinot Noir, California (about $12 retail)
- 2009 Presqu’ile Rim Rock Vineyard Pinot Noir, California (about $55 retail)