There’s a chill in the air, beautiful color in the leaves, and comforting dishes in the oven. Thanksgiving is an occasion that’s all about community, family, and food — but it isn’t necessary to be a gourmet to pull off a memorable meal. Hosts and guests alike can make the most of their contributions by pairing seasonal dishes with wines that will bring out their very best flavors.
Shawn McCormick, local sommelier and blogger for Uncork Ontario, likes breaking out some sparkling wine right away to start the Thanksgiving festivities off right. “Sparkling wine works with so many foods, [but] I prefer to pair it with appetizers, like mushroom or potato crostini,” he writes.
McCormick recommends an inexpensive, Ontario-Charmat-method bottle, which runs within the $20 to $30 price range. Pair a glass with his own potato crostini:
Shawn McCormick’s Potato Crostini
Makes about 24 crostini.
• 1 baguette
• 3-4 potatoes, cooked
• 1 c. pecorino cheese
• 5 garlic cloves
• 3 tbsp. olive oil, plus additional for brushing the bread
• 1-2 tsp. fresh or dry rosemary
• Salt and pepper to taste
1. Cut baguette into 1-cm thick slices. Cut cooked potatoes into 1/2-cm thick slices, each piece slightly smaller than the top of the bread.
2. Brush both sides of each bread slice with olive oil. Top each with a slice of potato.
3. Mix pecorino cheese with garlic, olive oil, and rosemary. Scoop about 1 tsp. of cheese mixture onto each bread/potato slice.
4. Sprinkle crostini with ground pepper and salt to taste. Bake at 350ºC until edges just begin to brown.
At the Main Event
Turkey is the star of nearly every Thanksgiving dinner, and fortunately, it’s simple to pair it with a good wine. Did you know that a white variety is a better match with poultry than red? McCormick recommends a classic Chardonnay that will complement traditional Thanksgiving flavors, or an off-dry Riesling that will have wide appeal and contrast the dinner’s most savory notes.
Chardonnay comes in both sparkling and still varieties, and its full-bodied buttery qualities and citrus tones pair perfectly with dishes like potatoes, gravy, and green bean casserole. Those who prefer the meal on the table to do all the heavy hitting can opt for Riesling instead, which is a considerably lighter wine with bright acidic qualities that will offset the density of all those festive dishes.
And although poultry pairs best with white wines, Pinot Noir is an option for Thanksgiving dinner as well. McCormick suggests pairing it with an earthy vegetarian entrée that features ingredients like mushrooms or nuts. Light-bodied and dry, Pinot Noirs typically have light bitter notes from their tannins but fruity finishes that can prove to be excellent foils for meatless entrees.
Pinot Noir and Gamay are two red wines that will also work with turkey – they are light, fruit-forward, and tend to have mild tannins making them both work well with poultry dishes.
For a table full of sweets, a sweet wine is always a good complement. Classic options include port and sherry, but McCormick recommends Icewine instead. Specifically, he suggests a Vidal or Riesling Icewine with classic Thanksgiving desserts like apple pie or pumpkin cheesecake, and a Cabernet Franc Icewine for sweeter treats that involve chocolate, cherries, or berries.
Icewine is harvested from grapes that have frozen on the vine to press just a small amount of natural sugary, smooth essence. Because it is often difficult to successfully harvest grapes for Icewine, a high-quality bottle can be more expensive than other varieties. It’s still possible to find one in the $25 to $40 range, however, and a great bottle of Icewine makes a fantastic finisher and conversation trigger for any Thanksgiving meal.