The Herald Bulletin

November 21, 2009

Howard Hewitt: Pairing wine with holiday meals

Even non-wine drinkers find themselves with a glass of wine around the holidays. Many people will pick up a bottle for those bountiful holiday meals and social gatherings.

There is ample advice on which wine one should serve with turkey — remember Grape Sense Rule No. 1 — If you like it, drink it!

There are lots of great options. But, your wine selection for Thanksgiving dinner should not be limited to a discussion of just pairing wine with turkey.

“Usually I quiz people on what side dishes are being served and how is the turkey being prepared,” said Tena McClanahan, Wine Styles, Carmel. “If you have a turkey someone is deep frying and they’re injecting it with Cajun seasoning that’s a whole lot different than roasting it with carrots, onions and celery in the center.

“It’s generally all about the side dishes, personally I love Pinot Noirs. If somebody likes red wine I think Pinot Noir is the perfect Thanksgiving wine (for roasted turkey). If it’s Cajun injected turkey then maybe a Zinfandel. I’d avoid the really bold wines.”

McClanahan also has a great suggestion for white wine lovers. She recommends a dry Gewurtztraminer as a perfect pairing. Gewurtz is a spicy and often floral wine that is dynamite with food. There are dry and sweeter versions, but pick up a dry or semi-dry if you’re going to have it with dinner. You can find great Gewurtz from Germany and France! Don’t forget Indiana’s wineries because most make nice Traminette which is very similar to Gewurtz.

A dry Riesling is a great choice for Thanksgiving as well. If you go semi-dry to dry you’ll be happy with your choice. Washington State offers a lot of great Riesling choices. New York state Riesling is another good buy and good choice. Again, some of the Indiana Riesling is also tasty.

If you like white wine and want to make it a really special occasion, spring for a bottle of J.J. Prum Spatlese Reisling from Germany. You’ll only find it at better wine stores and it will be over $30 a bottle.

But you don’t have to spend much more than a third of the cost of Prum Riesling to find a great Riesling choice. Check out Dr. Loosen Riesling, Mirassou Riesling, and those great Washington state picks.

Some people can’t get away from Chardonnay with Thanksgiving and holiday turkey. But try something different that will make a better food pairing. Get to your favorite wine shop and ask for a Chardonnay which was aged in stainless steel and not in oak. The wine will be a bit drier normally and not nearly as rich. Instead you’ll get a clean crisp flavor that pairs great with roasted bird.

Tena was right on suggesting Pinot Noir as a great red wine selection. Pinot has more structure than most white wines but will not be over powering. And Pinot will probably pair better with most side dishes than the lighter white wines.

There are some good Pinot Noir wines under $15 easily accessible. Many supermarkets carry Mirrasou Pinot for about $10. In your wine store look for $10-$15 Pinot from Mark West, Dashwood, and Castle Rock.

And for those who want to make their red selection something special, try an Oregon Pinot Noir. Lange Willammette Valley 2007 Pinot Noir is available across Indiana at about $24.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Howard Hewitt of Crawfordsville is a wine enthusiast who writes and blogs about wine. Check out his frequently updated wine blog at: Contact him with questions or comment at: