The Thanksgiving feast has been called the most difficult food-and-wine pairing meal of the year.
In a way, that’s true. But if you look at it in another way, the exact opposite is the case.
What you first need to decide is what kind of meal it’s going to be — formal, served in multiple courses, or casual, served buffet or family style.
If you take the formal approach, the wine pairing is a snap; you simply match the wine to the course being served, following the guidelines outlined in previous “Food and Wine Pairing” posts.
But formal isn’t as much fun — or manageable — as casual. The price you pay for fun, however, is a more challenging wine pairing situation.
That said, we always enjoy a challenge, so let’s take the casual approach. This involves a two-part pairing process.
First, you need a wine that matches nicely with the main course, whether it’s turkey, ham or (less traditional but yummy) lamb. Second, you need a few wines that will mesh with all the other flavors on the table, from sweet potatoes to cranberry sauce, and from green bean casserole to maple-glazed carrots.
First things first. Here are wine pairing ideas for main course dishes:
- With turkey — A rich, buttery Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio or, if you prefer red wine, Pinot Noir.
- With ham — Beaujolais Nouveau (the first wine of the vintage from France, made with Gamay grapes), a fruit-forward California Zinfandel, or sparkling wine.
- With lamb — Syrah (a.k.a. Shiraz in Australia and some other locales), Cabernet Sauvignon, or Italian Barolo.
Secondly, we need some wines that taste good with all of those side dishes. Here, it’s not a matter of selecting a specific wine for a specific dish, but rather a range of wines for all of the dishes.
That means wines that are either slightly sweet or at least have a good deal of fruitfulness in their flavor spectrum.
There are dozens of flavors among the dishes on a typical Turkey Day plate. You need at least a few different wines to satisfy the various palates partaking of those dishes.