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Friday, November 18, 2011

Wines to get your bird’s attention at Thanksgiving dinner

While turkey is the center of the “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner, it is by no means a requirement, and many families have different traditions.  Salt Lake City is home to many different ethnicities that each enjoy their own traditions, so many different meals will be served this coming Thursday.  If there is one Thanksgiving tradition that is even more widespread than turkey, it is to have a large variety of a lot of different tasting foods.  This, in combination with the fact that not everyone will enjoy the same wines with the same foods, makes finding the perfect wine pairing difficult.  If you’re hosting a large family dinner and have done so in the past, ask yourself what worked (or didn’t) before.  If you hit upon a wine that everyone raved about last year, then your best bet is to stick with the same selection or something very similar.  If you’re not that lucky, then you have a little work to do.  If you know your guests’ wine preferences, that should be an important input to your decision, so keep it in mind. 

Although tradition dictates that white wine be served with white meat, the complexity of the typical Thanksgiving dinner eases that restriction.  Three reds that work well for Thanksgiving are Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Beaujolais.  If you decide to go red, try a Pinot Noir with medium body that won’t overpower white meat and with medium acidity to cut through some of the fatty foods likely to be part of the dinner.  Zinfandels tend to be fuller bodied, but work well if you have a lot of spicy foods, while Beaujolais tend to be lighter wines that won’t overpower the flavors of the food.

If you decide to go white, you may discover that slightly sweeter whites go well with a Thanksgiving dinner.  A friend’s son looked askance at the bottles of Vouvray that I had brought for their Thanksgiving dinner until he tasted it with the meal, then he was a convert.  One white wine that shouldn’t be ignored is Sparking Wine.  Champagnes are so versatile that they can even go with chocolate.  If you want to go a little sweet, get Extra Dry, and if you want to go dry, get the Brut.  This month there are not many Sparklers on sale (they’re waiting for the big December blow-out), but a pair of Korbels and Domain Chandon Blanc de Noirs are marked down.

There are several other whites that will work well with a turkey dinner.  Riesling has the acidity to stand up to most of the foods it will encounter, and you can find it ranging anywhere from dry to sweet, so decide what degree of sweetness you want and check the label.  Gewürztraminer is fruity and spicy enough go well with turkey and dressing, and also comes in sweet or dry.   Pinot Grigio is another favorite that can deliver good flavor over  fatty holiday gravy.  Sauvignon Blanc and (reliable) Chardonnay are two other possibilities that will serve you well.

Lastly, if you will serve wine with dessert, keep in mind that a dessert wine should be sweeter than the dessert, so if you chose a dry, white (or red) wine for dinner you should definitely trade it out for something sweeter with dessert.

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