Fall Flavours: Thanksgiving Food Pairings

At my family Thanksgiving dinners, turkey has always taken center stage although other meats like duck and ham are also common mains. In general, thanksgiving dinner is at once sweet and savory with earthy elements. The best part? Similar wines can be easily paired with these meats and the typical Thanksgiving fixings.

When it comes picking out that perfect wine for dinner, I look for wines with good aromatics (to match the intense aromas coming from the kitchen), and lots of ripe fruit flavors (that pair so well with the sweet root vegetables, cranberry sauce, and honey glazed ham).  If mushrooms are on the menu, you can’t go wrong with red or white Burgundy, Semillon-based wines and a New World Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.  If the cook is using lots of herbs and spices, you may want to look at a New World Shiraz or a French blend from the Rhone Valley that echo these aromas and flavors.

If you’re planning on picking up a local bird, fresh vegetables from the Annapolis Valley, and ending with homemade apple pie, then it makes sense to pair your locally grown food with a local wine.  We are fortunate to have a vibrant wine industry in Nova Scotia and so many local wines work amazingly well with the sweet ripe fall flavours that appear on the Thanksgiving table.

My local wine picks for Thanksgiving dinner:

  1. Domaine Grand Pre Riesling– A difficult grape to grow in Nova Scotia, but with the right care, it makes an incredible wine with great aromatics of apple, pear and lemon.  Vibrant acidity and a touch off-dry.  An ideal pre-dinner sipper but also a refreshing pairing with turkey, this is always my grape of choice for ham.
  2. Benjamin Bridge Cab Franc Rose– This debut 2013 Rose is handcrafted from 100% Cabernet Franc. These late harvest grapes were handpicked in early November. The exceptional result is a wine of pure elegance and unique concentration.
  3. Blomidon BMD Sparkling Red– BMD is a sparkling red wine from Blomidon inspired by the Italian sparkling red wines of Emilia-Romagna. The nose displays aromas blueberry, black cherry, and spicy floral notes, which combine with the crisp effervescence and off-dry palate to make this wine incredibly versatile with a wide range of foods.

Something Sweet?
There are so many options for local dessert wines – late harvest wines, icewines, maple, and apple-based wines.  If you plan to serve apple pie, Grand Pre’s Pomme d’Or is the perfect pick.  If you prefer pumpkin pie, I would go for a late harvest  wine or ice wine from one of the many great local producers.

Wine Picks from Around the World

Moulin Blanquette de Limoux, France – A classic French sparkling wine from the Languedoc made from a blend of Mauzac, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc with aromas of green apple, acacia flowers and apricot with toasted nuances and finesse on the palate. The cook can sip on this while preparing the meal and the guests can enjoy it while they nibble on appetizers before dinner.  Sparkling wines can easily be served during the entire dinner.

Fresh and zesty aromatic white
Leitz Dragonstone Riesling, Rheingau, Germany– This wine is medium bodied with vibrant acidity and balanced fruit in a slightly off-dry style. Flavours of lemon curd, apple and honeysuckle, moderate length and a clean finish make this a wonderfully balanced Riesling complement the food’s richness.

Rich and creamy white 
DeMorgenzon Maestro White, Stellenbosch, South Africa– You could go with any full-bodied white that  has undergone some oak aging or lees contact. Chardonnay is the most common option,  but why not be different and try a viscous white blend from this iconic producer? The Maestro is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Roussanne and Viognier. The palate is full-bodied, textured and nuanced with a lingering aftertaste.  If you want to play up the richness of the meal, this is the wine for you!

Medium bodied,  juicy and fruit-forward red 
Guilty Men Red Blend, Niagara, Ontario, Canada – An easy drinking wine with ripe fruit-forward characteristics and a subtle herbal note, this is a vibrant pairing for turkey or ham. Made in Canada!

Full, ripe, round and spicy red 
Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel, Santa Cruz, California, USA– This 93-pt Stephen Tanzer wine is sure to wow your crowd if they love big reds.  Lots of rich fruit and white pepper, with bright cherry aromas and bramble flavours.  It is big, though not overly tannic, so it will pair well with white meats, ham and all sweet and fruit filled fixings.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend!