Drinks

Tips for pairing wines with a Thanksgiving feast

Nov. 21, 2013 at 10:20 AM ET

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Thanksgiving is all about delicious food and wine. Here, wine expert Leslie Sbrocco shares tips on serving up just the right vino.

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I'm often asked how to pair the cacophony of flavors on the turkey table with wine. Though I'm a believer in the drink what you like and eat what you like mantra, here are a few tips to make pairing magic this holiday.

Look for wines with:

Restrained alcohol: Spicy sausage stuffing or sweet potatoes topped with brown sugar can make high alcohol wines taste out of balance.

Little to no oak character: Oak seems more pronounced when paired with sweet and spicy flavors. Steer clear of oaky Chardonnays, for example, though un-oaked styles can be lovely.  

Refreshing acidity: Wines with bright, vibrant flavors work across the board with savory gravy and tangy cranberry sauce.

Fruit-driven flavors or hint of sweetness: Wines that pack a fruit punch or even a dash of sweetness are ideal for balancing the salty flavors on the table while echoing some of sweeter dishes.

Light tannins: Reds with strong tannins (think young Cabernet Sauvignon) can appear grittier with sweet and spicy fare. Wines that have light, smooth tannins will dance with these flavors as opposed to wrestling with them.

Recommended wine types:

White: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Viognier, Albariño, Chenin Blanc

Reds: Pinot Noir, Gamay (Beaujolais), Cabernet Franc, lower-alcohol Zinfandel, and elegant styles of Syrah

Rosé: All types from slightly sweet blush styles to dry versions

Bubbly: Most sparkling wines work beautifully due to their refreshing qualities, but rosé sparkling is my top choice

Sparkling stars

Chandon Rosé, California $16-$18

This strawberry-scented sparkler is crisp yet lush. It's perfect with appetizers but because it utilizes the red grape Pinot Noir, you can drink through the whole meal from appetizers to main course and even dessert.

Mionetto Moscato Dolce, Italy $12-14

With a whisper of sweetness, this lightly fizzy sparkler complements Turkey-table sweets, but is just as good on it's own with frozen cranberries in each glass as a festive garnish. An ideal all-purpose holiday sipper.

Aromatic whites

2012 Franciscan "Equilibrium" white blend, Napa Valley, Calif. $16-18

A sassy, lightly sweet white blend made with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Muscat that foils the richness of stuffing but marries with the sweetness of potatoes topped with brown sugar.

2011Fillaboa Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain $13-15

Made with the grape variety Albariño from one of northwestern Spain’s top producers, Fillaboa, this beautiful dry white is lush yet lively. Packed with floral aromas and juicy flavors, it’s a wine to adore.

Classic Reds

2012 Light Horse Pinot Noir, California $13-15

It’s difficult to find affordable Pinot Noir but this wine from heralded Jamieson Ranch nails it – one of the best on the market and a must-buy for the holidays. Elegantly styled with red berry notes, the wine pairs well with the lightness of white meat turkey and the tang of cranberry sauce.

2011 Renwood Zinfandel, California $12-14

From classic Zinfandel house, Renwood, comes a spicy, supple Zin that falls on the succulent side of the scale. A dash of the related grape Primitivo and a mélange of other varieties makes this red unique. It has enough power to pair with even the richest dishes on the turkey table. 

Video: Wine expert and author of “The Simple and Savvy Wine Guide” Leslie Sbrocco shares her favorite tips for pairing wine on Thanksgiving.


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