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Help! I’m hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year (the usual, Turkey with all the classic sides) and need some wine advice. What’s the best pairing?
Suzanne in North Vancouver
Sounds like you have a heavy date with your kitchen this weekend. The traditional Thanksgiving Dinner is a riot of flavours, textures, weights, intensities and sweetness levels, and that definitely makes wine matching challenging. But help is here! Let’s start with a few general pairing guidelines.
My first advice: Relax! Most foods work well enough with most wines.
The second and most important ‘rule’ is to do your best to balance the weight of the dish(es) to the wine. If the food or the wine out-weighs (or out-intensifies) the other, something will be lost. It’s like a collision between a Mack truck and a Mini…it’s not going to end well for the Mini. So pay attention to balancing weight.
Let’s deconstruct the classic Thanksgiving turkey dinner:
Roasted turkey is a savoury, mid-weight protein, so you generally need a mid-weight wine. But consider the sides: gravy adds richness and weight, and so do roast potatoes. Stuffing can be simple sage and onion, or deluxe oyster, or sausage (and isn’t stuffing the best part of the entire meal?). Brussels Sprouts have bitterness, while yam or sweet potato casserole adds sweetness, especially if marshmallows are involved (which many assure me are!). Green beans may be featured (sautéed in brown butter and almonds at my house), and then there is the cranberry sauce – both sweet and tart. Families have all kinds of other specialties too, like the infamous jellied Ambrosia Salad (more marshmallows), or maple roasted squash.
The pairing challenge is that we have a lot of flavours: sweet, tart, bitter, salty/savoury. We need a wine that can stand up to all these diverse tastes. We also have some richness, and that demands a good backbone of acidity.
One wine that can handle the Thanksgiving groaning board is rosé. Yes, rosé. The reason is that rosé is typically made from red grapes, but made like white wine. That means you get red wine structure (more body, grip and mouthfeel), with white wine freshness (palate-cleansing acidity). It’s the perfect bridging wine for a range of flavours and weight. Dry to very slightly off-dry styles are what you want.
Rosé for Thanksgiving turkey dinner has become a classic, because it works. Why not try a selection from this list? They are all on the dry side, mid-weight, with lots of fruit presence.
- T.H. Wines Rosé
- Lunessence Rosé
- OCP Haywire Gamay Noir Rosé
- The Hatch Screaming Frenzy Pinot Noir Rosé
- Bench 1775 Glow Rosé
- Culmina Saignée
- Upper Bench Rosé
- Corcelettes Oracle Rosé
If you want the full wine colour spectrum, here’s a link to my recent appearance on Breakfast Television, and six wines to try – including a smashing rosé!