Sommelier Suggestions for Thanksgiving Wines :: Natalie MacLean

Five Quick Tips for Picking the Ultimate Thanksgiving Wine
(EDITOR’S NOTE: These tips are also just as useful for Christmas and New Year’s.)

“No other holiday celebrates the gift of wine like Thanksgiving,” says author and sommelier Natalie MacLean, author of the bestselling book Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass. “Wine is a taste of the harvest along with all the delicious dishes on the table. But actually choosing a bottle can feel like a thankless task, especially with so many flavors to match.”

Relax. Have a drink. And try some of Natalie’s suggestions for great wines to pair with Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings. In Red, White and Drunk All Over, which was published in paperback recently, Natalie discusses wine and food pairing for Thanksgiving dinner. A new chapter in the book also addresses the five toughest matches for wine: vegetables, spicy dishes, chocolate, cheese, and fast food.

Natalie’s free online matching tool at complements her in-depth discussion in the book by allowing you to click on “turkey holiday dinner” to find wines that accompany all kinds of dishes, from roast turkey to turducken, from creamed corn to pecan pie.

Natalie also offers five quick tips for choosing a terrific Thanksgiving wine:

1. Start with bubbly. Sparkling wine is a great aperitif to sip while you wait for the turkey to finish cooking. It adds a celebratory note to the meal and goes well with starters like soup and salad.

2. Consider the turkey. Unlike most poultry and game birds, turkey meat is very dry in texture. So you need a mouth-watering wine to complement it. Good options are crisp whites like Riesling and Pinot Grigio. And yes, you can drink red wine with white meat: Pinot Noir, Beaujolais and Zinfandel all have juicy, berry-ripe flavors that go well with turkey.

3. Look beyond the bird. The range of side dishes means that you don’t have to match your wine just to the turkey. Since Thanksgiving dinner is often a banquet-style meal, with everyone choosing the trimmings, why not do the same with your wines? Offer both red and white, and possibly more than one depending on the size of your group.

4. Complement or contrast. A big, buttery Chardonnay from California or Chile can complement the roasted, smoky flavors of squash, chestnuts and pecan stuffing. But if you’d rather have a contrast to the richness of cream sauces and dressings, try a crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

5. End on a sweet note. If anyone still has room left when it’s time for pumpkin or pecan pie, offer a late harvest wine or icewine. If you’re a chocolate fan, try serving a liqueur with complementary flavors such as raspberry or blackcurrant.

Natalie’s online wine matching tool isn’t just about Thanksgiving dinner: it allows you to pair wine with other seasonal fall produce, game meats, pizza, egg dishes, TV dinners, breads and desserts. Visitors simply search by wine for meal inspirations or by food to find great wine choices. The site has more than 364,000 food and wine combinations, as well as thousands of recipes for those planning holiday parties and Christmas turkey dinner.

The matching tool is updated regularly, as Natalie responds to her readers’ suggestions for more dishes and wines. Many of these suggestions come from the 78,000 subscribers to her free e-newsletter, Nat Decants, which offers tips on how to buy, cellar and serve wine. Got a dish or a wine to stump Natalie? E-mail her via the web site and she’ll suggest a match for you. Happy Thanksgiving!

Author/Sommelier Natalie MacLean suggests gobbling good wines at

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