White or red for Thanksgiving? Both.

By Dave McIntyre
Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving dinner can be challenging from a wine-pairing perspective because it abandons the orderly progression of dishes, each requiring one wine, for a smorgasbord approach and a riot of flavors on the table all at once. To which I say: Embrace the challenge and open one of everything. Something on the table will match the wine in your glass. You just might need to be careful what you eat right before taking a sip.

That said, here are some easy guidelines to help you pair wines with your turkey and the trimmings.

First, bubbles go with everything. You cannot go wrong with champagne, Italian prosecco, Spanish cava or their sparkling cousins from California. Other versatile, food-friendly wines include Riesling, pinot noir, gamay (the grape of Beaujolais) and barbera.

Second, don't forget Beaujolais nouveau. Your wine-snob friends may sneer, but like Thanksgiving, Beaujolais nouveau is a celebration of the recent harvest, and it is conveniently released exactly one week before the turkey hits the table. This was a particularly strong vintage throughout France. And Beaujolais nouveau, with its grapey freshness, is the ideal partner for cranberry sauce.

Third, start with lighter wines and progress to heavier ones. Almost as important as matching flavors, you should consider the weight of your wine and food. So if you opt for an all-sparkling-wine dinner, start with a delicate prosecco and save the vintage champagne for the main course.

Fourth, the seasoning is just as important as the food. Pinot noir loves ginger. Syrah adores bacon. All wine lusts for tarragon.

The accompanying recommendations match styles of wine with a traditional Thanksgiving menu, drawing on Food section recipes from last Wednesday and today. Bon appétit!

Appetizers/finger foods

Flavors Salty, briny, creamy
Dishes Deviled-Eggy Crab Spread, Veggie Buffalo Spread
Wine styles Lighter sparkling wines from Italy (prosecco), Spain (cava) or Southern Hemisphere countries; crisp, acidic whites such as sauvignon blanc from New Zealand or Chile, or torrontes from Argentina

Loredan Gasparini Prosecco Montello e Colli Asolani
Italy, $12
(Great Value)

Delightful apple and pear flavors with crisp bubbles; this wine especially perks up with Asian spices.

Dionysus: available in the District at MacArthur Beverages, Wagshal's Market, Whole Foods Market P Street and Tenleytown; available in Maryland at Balducci's and Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda, Finewine.com in Gaithersburg, Snider's Super Foods in Silver Spring; available in Virginia at Balducci's in Alexandria and McLean, Whole Foods Markets in Alexandria, Fair Lakes, Reston, Tysons Corner and Vienna, Unwined in Alexandria and Belleview.


Flavors Fruity, herbal, bitter, spicy, earthy
Dishes Endive and Mache Salad With Apple Vinaigrette, Shaved Fennel, Pear and Tarragon Salad, Roasted Ginger Beet Salad With Ricotta Salata, Escarole and Celery Heart Salad With Warm Rosemary Dressing

Wine styles Any of the soup-course wines; a lighter pinot noir, such as a Burgundy; cru Beaujolais or Beaujolais nouveau

D. Bouland Cote de Brouilly 2008
Beaujolais, France, $22

Vibrant and earthy, with a core of fruit that plays well with almost anything.

Weygandt Selections: available in the District at Weygandt Wines.


Flavors Savory, briny, herbal, earthy

Dishes Roast turkey, corn bread-sage stuffing, mushroom stuffing, traditional oyster dressing

Wine styles Weightier whites, such as champagne, Cremant d'Alsace, pinot gris or Riesling, white Burgundy or chardonnay; plus pinot noir, cru Beaujolais, Bordeaux (especially merlot), Rhone reds (grenache, syrah), Spanish reds (garnacha, tempranillo), Italian reds (Chianti, Barbaresco, Barolo).

Qupé Chardonnay, Bien Nacido Vineyard "Y" Block 2008
** 1/2
Santa Barbara, Calif., $20

Rich and oaky, but perfectly balanced and expressive; still young, it will benefit from time in bottle.

Country Vintner: available in the District at D'Vines; on the list at Central Michel Richard, CityZen, 701. Available in Virginia at Cecile's Wine Cellar in McLean.

Ponzi Vineyards "Tavola" Pinot Noir 2007
Willamette Valley, Ore., $27

A great example of Oregon pinot: silky, full and food-friendly. And affordable.

Bacchus: available in the District at Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, Potomac Wine & Spirits, Wide World of Wines; on the list at Corduroy. Available in Maryland at Wine Cellars of Annapolis, the Wine Seller in Ellicott City; on the list at Redwood in Bethesda, Severn Inn in Annapolis.


Flavors Savory, earthy, creamy
Dishes Silken Turnip Soup, squash soups
Wine styles Rich whites, such as champagne or sparkling wine from California or Virginia; Riesling from Germany or Austria; anything from Alsace; Rueda from Spain; California chardonnay or white Burgundy.

Iron Horse Blanc de Blancs 2003
California, $40

Anything by Iron Horse is recommended, but the blanc de blancs is special: delicious and well structured, a great example of U.S. sparkling wine approaching champagne for complexity and depth.

Washington Wholesale: available in the District at Burka's Wine & Liquor, Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, Paul's of Chevy Chase; on the list at Cafe Japone.


Flavors Eggy, earthy, spicy
Dishes Date Pecan Pie, pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie
Wine styles Aged tawny port; Madeira; demi-sec sparkling wine; sweet late-harvest whites

Taylor Fladgate 10-Year-Old Tawny Porto
Portugal, $32

There's no better partner for eggy, custardy desserts than aged tawny port, and the only thing better than the Taylor's 10 is the Taylor's 20.

Kobrand/Republic National: available in the District at Bell Wine & Spirits, Best Cellars, Calvert Woodley, Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, MacArthur Beverages, Morris Miller Wine & Liquor, Pearson's, Potomac Wine & Spirits, Schneider's of Capitol Hill, Washington Wine & Liquor; on the list at Bobby Van's, Cafe Milano, Central Michel Richard, Marvin, Proof, Sam & Harry's, Shelly's, Taberna del Alabardero.

McIntyre can be reached through his Web site, http://www.dmwineline.com, or at food@washpost.com.

More for the Thanksgiving table

Dozens of our favorite holiday recipes

Classic dishes, updated


Mashed potatoes


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