Wine Pairings for the Thanksgiving Turkey

Need to bring a wine to the Thanksgiving family gathering or a friend's party? Looking for a good, quality wine that pairs well with turkey? Here are some guidelines for selecting a great wine:

Choose a wine made from a grape variety that complements the turkey. Turkey-friendly varieties include the reds of Gamay and Pinot Noir, such as this Rodney Strong from Sonoma, and the whites of Chardonnay and Riesling. These light-bodied, fruity varieties work exceptionally well with white meat and hold up to the many flavors and spices of the Thanksgiving table.

Stay away from jug wines. Period. While you're at it, box wines too. But since some high-quality producers are now packaging wine in boxes to reduce their carbon footprint, don't dismiss this rule altogether. Still, be aware of what's inside the box. For more on box wine, see here.

Don't turn away from foreign wine labels in horror trying to figure out the grape variety, especially the hard-to-decipher French ones. French wine is classified by region, called terroir. So you will see wines named after the region with usually no specification of the grape variety or varieties used. But don't think that it is daunting, it just takes some online research to find out the variety.

If you want Pinot Noir, you are looking for a red Burgundy (Bourgogne), and if you want Chardonnay, you want to buy a white Burgundy. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the main grape varieties grown in the region of Burgundy. And if the label says Beaujolais, it means that the wine is made from the Gamay grape variety in the region of Beaujolais. Here is this Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages, made from a combination of wine from small villages in Beaujolais. But please at all costs avoid Beaujolais Nouveau as Dr. Vino points out here and here for reasons of economy, environment, and good taste.

With Riesling wines from Austria, Germany, the Alsace region of France, or even this Wiemer from New York's Finger lakes, you will see labels with the words Kabinett, Sp├Ątlese, and Auslese, which signify the harvest time of the grapes, here in order from earlier harvest to late harvest. And don't be afraid to ask your wine merchant for help in deciphering a foreign wine label. Know that they are there to help you. Make sure to let them know what wine of which grape variety you are looking for and it will make it easy for them to suggest a bottle of wine that fits your palette.

Try going as local as you can. Choose a wine with a small carbon footprint. Choose an American wine. There are wines readily available from New York’s Finger Lakes, Oregon’s Willamette Valley, such as this Bethel Heights Chardonnay, and of course California’s Napa and Sonoma Valleys have some of the most exceptional wines in the United States. Check out Appellation America to find wines from wine producers in your state.