Thanksgiving Wine Guide

By Kim O'Brien

In just a few days, we'll be toasting to all things thankful (and all things turkey!). What wine will be in your guests' glasses? From Rieslings to reds, local experts Jennifer Eckinger, executive director of the PA Winery Association, and Wes Keener, manager of Mount Hope Estate & Winery shops, weighed in on the best bottles to pair with your Thanksgiving meal:


White Wine

  • White wine is traditionally the best bet to pair with turkey. But before you reach for the Riesling, take a look at these lesser-known wines (and a few familiar favorites) compiled by Eckinger and Keener:

Gewürztraminer: A crisp, spicy semi-dry from Traminer grapes, Keener ranks this as a best overall pick to pair with turkey. This spicy blend is a hit - this year, Mount Hope's Gewürztraminer was a Gold Medal Winner in the 2012 Pennsylvania Wine Competition.

Traminette: Similar in quality to Gewürztraminer, this wine is a local treasure to the Northeast and varies from dry to sweet. "Either one will pair well with the bird," Eckinger noted.

Viognier: Floral and fruity, Viognier has "become a more popular wine over the years," according to Eckinger. Its aromatic nature lends itself to foods with a bit of spice.

Riesling: Ranging from dry to sweet, be sure to pick your Riesling based on the boldness of your meal flavors. Sweet potatoes or Cajun seasonings, for example, can hold their own against a sweet Riesling. Less loud flavors are better coupled with a dry variety.

Other picks: Chardonnay (crisp and aged in oak), Pinot Grigio (dry, white, smooth and complex), and Sauvignon Blanc (light and crisp) also land in the list of recommended pairings.

Note: White wine should chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour (but no more than 2 hours) before serving. Short on time? Stick it in the freezer for 10 minutes. Temperatures should range in the 40’s to low 50’s.


Red Wine

  • While white takes the cake when it comes to complementing turkey, you can still appease a table full of red wine aficionados. Just be sure to go "lighter and brighter" when coupling reds with a traditional Thanksgiving meal, suggested Eckinger.

Pinot Noir: A lighter bodied red, Eckinger ranked this among her favorite complements to Thanksgiving side dishes: "I tend to like this because of the richness of some of the things that are still on my plate."

Chambourcin: Bountiful in the mid-Atlantic region of North America, this red can range from dry to sweet, even falling on the spicy side. Depending on your variety's finish, this can pair well with a boldly seasoned turkey.

Shiraz (or Syrah): A staple that will appease your "red crowd," this bold, full-bodied wine should be paired with equally bold dishes, noted Eckinger.

Note: Red wine should be removed from the refrigerator an hour before serving. Temperatures should range in the high 50’s to low 60's.


Seasonal Spirits

  • Celebrate (and unwind from) the holidays with these celebratory spirits:

Beaujolais Nouveau: This light, fruity red is "highly representative of the season" Eckinger said. Originating from the Beaujolais region of France, this seasonal wine is made from the year's first grape harvest. "From harvest to bottle, it's just a couple of weeks," Keener said, noting that this red's lack of tannin makes for a less bitter flavor. In short, Beaujolais Nouveau lends itself to hearty gulping rather than dainty sipping. One part sweet and one part nostalgic, this wine represents all things Thanksgiving. Said Eckinger, "It's more sentimental than anything else."

Spiced Apple Wine: Not to be mistaken with hard cider, this apple-brewed wine bottles up all the familiar flavors of fall. Mount Hope's particular brew is infused with mulling spices like coriander, nutmeg, and clove, and can be served hot or cold. Plus, its fall flavors make it the perfect complement to a slice of pumpkin pie!

Best Wine to Unwind: Looking for the best spirit to sip after a long day of Black Friday shopping? Look no further than wine of the fizzy variety. Eckinger's pick? "A sparkling wine to help celebrate that you survived the day."


Special thanks to Jennifer Eckinger of the Pennsylvania Wine Association in Harrisburg, PA (a fan of our 5 oz. Squat Clear Hard Plastic Tumbler for tasting seminars) and Wes Keener of Mount Hope Estate and Winery in Manheim, PA.

Wine glass charms available at www.wineschwag.com.

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