What To Pour For Turkey Day

Red or white doesn't matter, but finding a match for those side dishes can get tricky

The turkey is ordered; the menu is set. Now what to wash it all down with? Choosing wine for the annual Thanksgiving feast can be vexing. Turkey is about as versatile a main course as you could hope for, pairing well with both red and white wines. But when it comes to cranberry sauce, sugary yams, and other side dishes, things get more complicated. The tart or sweet nature of some accompaniments can clash with wines that may be perfect for the rest of the meal.


Some general rules can help. Don't get hung up on red vs. white. It's more important to choose wine that's not too heavy and won't overpower the food you spent all day preparing. So go for medium-bodied wines: Pinot noir is especially versatile. Calera makes a Burgundy-style pinot noir from California, a great value at $14.95, says Roberta Morrell of wine merchant Morrell in New York. Any young and fruity red, such as a Beaujolais or Rioja, is a good all-around choice.

For white, Morrell suggests something "meaty," such as a Châteauneuf du Pape. Some wonderfully rich whites have a minerally, herbaceous edge that can cut through the cacophony of flavors on the table. Try a Pouilly Fumé -- La Ducette makes a nice one for $23.95 -- or a Savenniéres, produced from the chenin blanc grape.

If you're serving a heritage turkey or a game bird such as duck or goose, you can go for a more full-bodied wine. These flavorful fowl hold their own with a syrah, Barolo, or zinfandel. Or check out River Wild Winery's Turkey Blend ($14). A mix of zinfandel, grenache, and petit syrah, it's one of four blends created by the winery to complement wild game. For more delicately flavored fowl, such as pheasant, opt for an equally subtle wine, such as a light red from Burgundy.

The best strategy for side dishes is to either mirror or contrast the main flavors. Yams would be well served by a sweet, crisp German reisling. A tart, acidic cranberry dressing would go well with a wine whose acidity stands up to it, such as a Cabernet Franc from the Chinon region of the Loire Valley.

Then don't fret. Just enjoy the meal.

By Amy Cortese

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