Perfect Wine Pairings to Beat the 2020 Thanksgiving Blues


It’s that time of year again…gobble, gobble, gobble…

Happy Thanksgiving…or is it?

If this was a normal year, I would be rushing around like a turkey with my head cut off (I just purchased one of those!!), trying to plan and organise the perfect Thanksgiving meal with family and friends. However, it’s 2020, Coronavirus is running rampant and most of us are experiencing a government imposed lockdown and/or some level of isolation. Not quite the ideal situation for celebrating…or is it?

Despite the fact that this year’s turkey extravaganza may be lacking in the social department, doesn’t necessarily mean you should throw in the towel, forgoing the turkey, the trimmings and the pumpkin pie. Oh no, it certainly doesn’t! Rather, give thanks for everything you do have and celebrate in style…2020 style that is! Since it’s just you and your immediate household celebrating, you won’t have to buy too many bottles this year. A great excuse to justify splurging on some outstanding wines! Thank goodness my five kids aren’t legally able to drink, otherwise, I’d have to rethink this plan.

Bring on the Bubbly

Before the actual feast begins, somewhere in between the basting and the baking, give yourself a well deserved break. What better excuse than to pair your break with a glass of beautiful bubbly. The big question…which one will it be? I love the fact that there are so many options. Some of the ones on my list are a bit off the beaten path, but definitely worth trying. I’m really impressed with the British sparkling that’s coming onto the scene. So maybe you’ll want to buy a bottle or two…or three…or even a whole case!! Shhhh…I won’t tell if you don’t!!! I just keep telling myself that I’m doing my part to support the UK wine industry. My husband argues that it doesn’t have to be me single handedly supporting it!!!

On Budget (£20-£35)

Splurge (£35 on up)

Let’s Talk Turkey

Pairing wine with turkey is quite simple if you follow a few tips. Keep in mind that the whole Thanksgiving meal, in all its glory, is wonderful but also extremely rich and heavy. Therefore, stick to lighter / medium-bodied wines. There’s nothing worse than pairing rich, indulgent food with a full-bodied wine, as it only intensifies the gluttony! I usually serve both a white and a red wine with dinner. This offers an opportunity to compare and contrast flavours and explore new wines, as there are so many fabulous wines out there!! It also gives you something new to talk about!!

Gewurztraminer – This is quite possibly my favourite white wine to serve at Thanksgiving. A cool climate, dry or off-dry example will offer intense aromatics of rose, orange and maybe a hint of lychee as well as flavours of cinnamon, ginger, and salinity (Alsatian). Turkey on it’s own isn’t very flavourful, and this is why we take the time to brine it, season it, stuff it and pair it with so many side dishes. Therefore, turkey requires a wine pairing that is bursting with aromas and flavours to compensate for what it’s lacking. In addition to the incredible flavours and aromas it offers, Gewurztraminer’s medium body, smooth viscosity, low acidity and subtle sweetness are so satisfying that you will keep coming back for more.

Pinot Noir – By this point in time, you’ll know that I’m obsessed with Oregon Pinot Noir. However, this year, I’ve decided to venture outside my comfort zone (AVA more like it!). It’s time for a shake-up! No, I’m not having a midlife crisis. Rather, I’m merely heading to the Southern Hemisphere. Recently, I tried two amazing Thanksgiving-worthy Pinot Noirs, one from Tasmania and the other from Chile. A medium-bodied Pinot Noir goes so well with turkey, as it provides flavours and aromas of red fruit, mushroom, earth and spice notes as well as high acidity levels that cut through the richness of a Thanksgiving dinner, while also enhancing the various rustic flavours. These two wines are definite winners!

Gamay Noir – Well, I’m on a bit of a Gamay kick lately. I love the stuff! Gamay pairs well with turkey because, like it’s cousin Pinot Noir, it also offers the red fruit aromas and flavours, along with a bit of black fruit such as black currant and plum as well as earthy, peppery notes. As a lighter to medium bodied wine, with low tannins, it won’t overpower your turkey dinner, but rather, it will spice it up. If you’re after a ‘higher end’ Gamay, then start with a Beaujolais Cru. Just to warn you, there are 10 nominated Cru areas in Beaujolais, each with their own unique personalities. If you’re after a lighter bodied, more aromatic, floral version, then go with either a Fleurie or Brouilly. However, if you are set on a medium-bodied wine with richer, earthier notes, then a Morgon or Moulin-au-Vent is the Cru for you! If you’re really searching for something special, then head to Oregon or New Zealand for a bit of a treat.

Pumpkin Pie

If you still have room for dessert, then pumpkin pie’s the winner at any Thanksgiving dinner. When pairing desserts with wine, the best option is to ensure that the wine is slightly sweeter than the dessert. Sweetness in food decreases the sweetness in wine, making is seem bitter. To ensure a successful pairing, the wine should be sweeter than the dessert, while also including complementary flavours. A pumpkin pie is a complex character. Spicy notes of cinnamon and nutmeg often overshadow the slightly sweet and sour pumpkin flavours, while the buttery crust and whip cream offer a fatty depth and richness that perfectly balance the entire medley of goodness. Therefore, you need a sweet wine with flavours of citrus, stone fruit, honey and nutty notes. Sweet and sour citrus notes complement the those found in the pumpkin, while peach and apricot flavours soften the citrus edge, enhancing the overall sweetness. Additionally, the flavours of almond and beeswax perfectly pair with the buttery, pastry crust flavours. You’re going to love it! I highly recommend going with an Icewine (Eiswein in German). They’re certainly not cheap but definitely worth every drop! A much more affordable option is a Sauternes, which is a sweet wine made from Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and/or Muscadelle grapes that are affected by Noble Rot. However, if you’re after a similar option but with more of a talking point and a bit less pricey, then head to Bergerac and try a Monbazillac sweet wine.

Happy Thanksgiving 2020!