Wines for the Turkey

Richard FadeleyThanksgiving is just around the corner and no meal can be more challenging to the wine lover. You are not only confronted with a panoply of flavors but people, young and old, that may or may not like wine, white or red. If you are in charge of the wines (which I often am) this can be a daunting task.

Everyone has an opinion on what goes with turkey (lots of wines do) but it's the dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce and all the side dishes that make this big meal the Gordian knot of food and wine pairing. So we used this as an excuse to conduct a seasonal blind tasting to slice through this dilemma and give you some ideas as to what works best with the big bird.

We prepared a traditional turkey day spread complete with two different dressings (corn bread and herb), gravy, thyme-roasted sweet potatoes ( We also had a green bean casserole (it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it), a citrus salad with chopped walnuts, homemade bread and of course, the guest of honor, grilled turkeys breast. With wine glasses in hand we diligently worked our way through eighteen wines, white and red, to find out firsthand just what does go best with our this annual feast.

At any special occasion it is nice to start with a flute of sparkling wine, and since this is the most American of holidays, it would be appropriate to have something from the US. We have tasted several for this article, but really domestic sparklers are easy to buy and for the most part are good values. Plan on about six flutes per bottle. You could have the sparkler with a salad or soup, if you are having one, otherwise a welcoming toast, a blessing, and you are ready to eat.

We went to work with a taste and sip, sip and taste. Some of the entries seemed to get lost amid some of the rich flavors bouncing across our palates, and some never had the stuffing to confront the wall of flavors coming off the table. We did find some interesting wines that were just the right dose of savoir-faire to fit nicely with the food. Our overall favorites included whites, rosés and particularly reds. This is a classic example where you want the wine to be the frame and the meal the picture. The wine will have to play background music for Aunt Sally's mac & cheese and be enjoyed by folks who might not have wine on a regular basis.

When we pulled off the bags, we were surprised to find some unusual names and faces among the whites. Our favorites were two rieslings and a nice Vouvray--one form Oregon and two from France--and a grüner veltliner that was a electric surprise. They really hung in there with the food and made for a complete experience. But the clear favorite for all of us were the Beaujolais Crus from Duboeuf (other Cru Beaujolais would work too), not to be confused with Beaujolais Nouveau (ask at the wine store to be sure). They seemed to cover all the bases.

There really should not be any compromise with this "meal-of-meals". I would suggest serving a red and a white, and a rosé (as a third wine) would not be out of place. The off-dry whites played nice with all of the spices and aromas, rolling right along with the rich sweet potatoes and had a captivating "spice and nutmeg" notes. The Trimbach and Kudos rieslings were a hit that would make you look like a wine wizard and impress your guests, the Vouvray is a sure bet, while the grüner veltliner was crisp and "on point", yet a touch off-dry that was just perfect with everything. Choose an off-dry (alcohol content 12-12.5%) white, not a late harvest or German Spatlese or Auslese, for the meal.

All of our ratings compare the wines to the food and not the wine alone and you will notice that, with only a few exceptions, these wines are under $20, most around $15. Now you have no excuse not to serve a nice red and a white wine with your holiday meal. Let us know how your feast turns out and what your favorite wines were.

Thanksgiving Wine Review

Domaine Carneros '10 Brut****Best WhiteCalifornia$24.99
Clara Brut, North Coast****Another Star!California$15.99
Chateau St. Michelle NV Brut***A Best BuyWashington$9.99
Scharffenberger NV Brut****If you can't decide!California$14.99
Gruet '12 Brut Blanc de Noirs****Another Top Choice!New Mexico$17.99
Trimbach '11 Riesling****Best of the Whites!France$19.99
Toussaint '12 Vouvray****Another Winner!France$13.99
Skeleton '13 Grüner Veltliner (1.0 Lt)****Tasty & A Best Buy!Austria$12.99
Kudos '12 Riesling****Another Best Buy!Oregon$12.99
Tariquet '13 Rosé de Pressée, C de G****Another Best Buy!France$11.99
Bougrier '13 Rosé d'Anjou****Interesting Pick!France$10.99
Vignes des Prêsheurs '13 Tavel (Rosé)****Provencal Rosé, Nice.France$17.99
Mulderbosch '11 Steen Op Hout****SA Chenin BlancSouth Africa$13.99
George Deboeuf '11 Moulin-A-Vent****Star of the Show!!France$14.99
Deboeuf Jean Dedscombes '11 Morgon****Another Star!France$15.99
M. de Gramont '11 Chorey-Les-Beaune****Very Elegant!France$29.99
Jadot '12 Beaujolais-Villages***1/2Good Value Here!France$11.99
Ritual '11 Pinot Noir, Casablanca***1/2Another Best Buy!Chile$16.99


Our four-star rating system and how it might compare to the WS 100-point scale:
* Decent (80-83)
** Good (86-87)
*** Very Good (87-89)
**** Excellent (90+)

All ratings are only the opinions of our tasters and not meant to offend your personal favorites.

November, 2014

To contact Richard Fadeley, write him at

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