Turkey time with bill zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Thanksgiving weekend folks. Time to pull out they sweaters and tuques, rake the leaves and stick that Turkey in the oven. But what to drink? A few weeks back I spent a day in the kitchen putting together a pre-Thanksgiving, traditional turkey feast for the purpose of trying out different pairing ideas. There was roast turkey, stuffing, mushroom gravy, cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts and mashed potatoes.

Aside from being a great excuse to pack back some Champagne and other refreshers during the day, my aim was to test drive some wines and see what are the range of options we have when it comes to matching wine with the big bird. The results? While it confirmed what I usually suggest, there were a few surprises.

Big Bird theory

Now I am not a turkey hater, but like most poultry, turkey is a rather neutral meat. Okay, the dark meat can have a touch more flavour, but all in all, there’s not much there. So the more flavourful stuff tends to come more from what it is served with the meal than from the bird itself.

So the pairing is about the accompaniments. For most of us that means cranberry sauce (which adds fruit, sweetness and acidity), stuffing and sauces (both which can add richness and flavour). We want our wines to either add something or support what’s on the table.

The first wine style that we can dismiss are young tannic red wines. Turkey is low in fat which is why when it is cooked it can get a bit dry. Because there is little fat, there is nothing for the tannins of a very young red wine to grab on to, so I would leave the powerful, more tannic wines for another meal. This does not necessarily mean that your favourite Bordeaux and high-octane Californian cabernets are out, but they had better have a bit of age under their belts.

One of my favourite wines was a pink Champagne. It had the body for the bird, the acidity to match up the cranberry and was just plain fun to drink. One of the best value Champagnes at the SAQ is from Ayala, so if you want to go classy this weekend, try the Rosé Majeur.

Ayala Rosé MajeurChâteau Laffitte Teston Ericka 2012Hugel Gewurztraminer 2012

If you aren’t big on cranberry, but love lots of gravy, then a rich white can also do the trick. Most chardonnay will work, but if you want something more exotic, especially with aromatic stuffing, then try the 2012 Pacherenc du Vic Bilh Ericka from Lafitte Teston.

If you like lots of cranberry as well as stuffing, then a gewurtraminer will do the trick. Hugel’s 2012 is exceptional.

But most of you want red. The best wines too choose are lighter styled reds – Beaujolais and pinot noir, which have bright fruit, low tannin and good acidity to play off the cranberry sauce. So any light fruity wine will do, but as it’s a holiday, it’s the perfect time for Burgundy.

Jean Claude Boisset Bourgogne Les Ursulines 2012Domaine René Bouvier Bourgogne Pinot Noir Le Chapitre 2012Hoya De Cadenas Reserva Tempranillo 2010Tardieu Laurent Les Becs Fins 2012Fattoria Casa Di Terra Mosaico 2010

I tasted two excellent and well priced generic Burgundy recently. Try with the 2012 Ursuline from Boisset or La Chapitre from Rene Bouvier. Both are under $25 and work exceptionally well with everything on the table.

If you have a lot of people, this can be a pricey affair if you are paying for the wine. At under $13, the 2010 reserva from Hoya de Cadenas blew me away for its finesse. Pinot noir-esque in many ways despite being made with tempranillo.

If you want more substance and pinot isn’t your thing, then try the 2012 Les Becs Fins from Tardieu Laurent. Fruit driven Cote du Rhone where freshness is up front and then tannin is ripe and round.

And finally, if you want a wine that incredible elegance and finesse, but still juicy and will work at the table, splurge on the Mosaico from Fattoria Casa di Terra. The 2010 might be one of the best wines I have tasted over the past few months.

Enjoy the long weekend folks!


“There’s enjoyment to be had of a glass of wine without making it a fetish.” – Frank Prial

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