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November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving Wine Pairings and Recommendations

Wine enthusiast Dr. Richard Parker breaks down pairings and recommendations for your Thanksgiving feast, plus what to keep in mind and where to buy in Nashville.

Every Thanksgiving it seems that people are always sparring over what wines might best go with their traditional turkey dinner. Fortunately there is enough variety in the wine market to keep these deliberations from derailing your well-planned meal and festivities.

As most people will be enjoying the traditional Thanksgiving turkey, it’s easy enough to actually rule out a number of wines; I am talking, of course, about red varietals like zinfandel, merlot or cabernet sauvignon. But if you insist on serving a red with your meal, I would recommend going with the most food-friendly of the reds, the versatile pinot noir.

If you’re looking to shop economically for this varietal, I would recommend a Kenwood or Clos du Bois Pinot Noir—either should run less than $20 a bottle. However if you’re considering something a little more special, look for a David Bruce or Saintsbury; both will offer tantalizing flavors that will go well with almost every bite of your holiday feast from turkey breast to sweet potato casserole.

Now that we’ve dealt with the easy part, let’s tackle the more difficult option—the white varietals. What you choose will largely depend on your own taste preferences. While many people might seek out something rich and buttery, like a Newton Chardonnay from California, others might choose something cleaner with a hint of pepper, such as New Zealand’s Matua Valley Sauvignon Blanc.

Since I’ve already mentioned it, I think the Matua Valley is the most underpriced wine on the market. Selling well below the $20 price point, this crisp, clean white with hints of pepper would easily complement the traditional Thanksgiving dinner and would be among the first bottles I would open at my own table.

But let’s go back to the chardonnays for a moment. This varietal makes for a fine pairing with most Thanksgiving meals. While Newton’s price point between $35 and $45 may make some hesitate in the current economy, there are some good alternatives that will work very well and still leave you with plenty of money for Christmas shopping at the Mall at Green Hills, including chardonnays by Chalk Hill, Buena Vista and Alice White. My recommendation for a best value chardonnay under $15 is California’s Toasted Head Chardonnay.

Alternatively if you’re pondering something a bit more exotic than a chardonnay or sauvignon blanc, consider an Austrian gruner veltliner—one of the best white wines flying under the radar today, a German gewürztraminer or a California viognier. Toasted Head also makes a very nice version of this varietal. But if your tastes run sweeter, try Relax, a German riesling that sells for under $15 and pairs nicely with lighter fare. And if a dessert wine is what you’re after, look for an ice wine from Canada or a late harvest sauvignon blanc from California.

Inevitably, there are those who love their blush wines and fortunately there are some that can contribute to the Thanksgiving recommendations. Most people are familiar with the ubiquitous white zinfandel, but there are other blush wines including white merlot and white Grenache. But if you are looking for a surprise, Biltmore Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc de Noir will offer a delightful wine experience for even those who normally shy away from any wine with even a hint of pink.

With all the available choices you may be asking yourself, “What’s the right wine for my Thanksgiving dinner?” The important thing for you to consider is not what’s the right wine, but what wine will make the experience memorable.

Fortunately for Nashvillians, there are plenty of good stores to help you make the right selection. For folks living in western Davidson County, try Red Spirits and Wine in Bellevue. If you are in the Green Hills area, The Wine Shoppe at Green Hills has a good selection. West End Discount Liquors and Wines can help you in the midtown area. And those in East Nashville can stop by Woodland Wine Merchant.

May your Thanksgiving be happy and your wine selections be as satisfying as the late Thursday nap.



About the Author

Dr. Richard Parker
Dr. Richard Parker
Dr. Richard Parker is a marketing professor and former resident of downtown Nashville’s Second Avenue District. Since 2003 he has consulted on product and marketing strategies for the retailing side of the wine industry. His travels have taken him to various wine regions in California, Canada, Austria and Slovenia. He most recently spent time in California’s Paso Robles wine region.