Thanksgiving Food & Wine Pairings

When I think of Holiday foods the dishes that first come to mind are roasted poultry (turkey, chicken, squab and duck), baked ham, vegetables including squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes and corn, fruit salad, cranberry sauce, yeast rolls, fruit and nut-filled breads, and of course, delicious desserts like pumpkin pie, pecan pie, chocolate pie, and fruit pies.

There are many wines that would pair nicely with such dishes, however, there are a few specific ones that are traditionally matched with Holiday foods. The wines that tend to make the best pairings are Gewürztraminer, Rosé, Pinot Noir, and Port.

Gewürztraminer is an aromatic grape variety that is naturally high in sugar and produces pungent, full-bodied white wines with a bouquet of tropical fruits, floral notes of roses, and spice. It performs best in cooler climates and is commonly grown in France, Germany, and the United States. Foods that pair nicely with Gewurztraminer are ham, Cornish game hens, turkey, duck, roasted sweet potatoes, fruit salad, dishes with cinnamon or clove spice, and apple pie.

Rosé is a lightly-colored pink wine that is made from red-skinned grapes. There are three major techniques used to produce rosé, however the most common is allowing skin contact with the juice for a short period of time in order to extract the desired amount of color. Rosés are refreshing wines that are meant to be consumed young and chilled. They vary from bone-dry to medium-sweet and usually display flavors and aromas of summer berry fruits like strawberries, cherries and raspberries, spice, and varying degrees of acidity. Rosés pair well with roasted chicken, smoked poultry, baked ham, cold meats, herbed stuffing, roasted vegetables, cranberry sauce, and berry pies.

Pinot Noir is thought to produce some of the finest wines in the world. In general, Pinot Noir tends to be light- to medium-bodied with aromas of black cherry, raspberry, and currant. Traditional styles offer scents of earth or “barnyard” and firm acidity. The best examples come from Burgundy in France, although the Willamette Valley in Oregon is at the same latitude as Burgundy and has a similar climate in which the finicky grapes thrive. Pinot Noir is also commonly grown in California, Germany, and New Zealand. Pinot Noir is an outstanding food-wine and matches nicely with lean beef or veal dishes, lamb, braised chicken, roasted duck, game and game birds, dishes with cinnamon or clove spice, herbed stuffing, gravy, greens, and roasted root vegetables.

Port is a Portuguese fortified wine that is sweet, full-bodied, high in alcohol, and low in acid and tannin. It is made by a process of adding neutral grape spirits in order to stop fermentation before all the sugar is converted into alcohol. The wine is then stored and aged, often in barrels, before being bottled. The most renowned type of port is a vintage port made entirely of grapes from a declared vintage year. Ports tend to be thick and dark with aromas and flavors of chocolate, cocoa, coffee, cigar box, cinnamon and pepper spice, and sometimes dark, ripe berry fruits. Generally, Ports are thought of as dessert wines, therefore they pair nicely with bitter and sweet chocolate and chocolate desserts, berry pies, apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, caramel pie, nutty desserts, and breads made with dried fruits and nuts. They also pair well with hearty foods such as smoked and braised red meats, hearty stews, and blue cheese.

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