CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I've proclaimed this many times before, but it bears repeating: Thanksgiving is truly a wine lover's holiday!
Simply put, it's the culinary versatility of the Thanksgiving dinner, and the way turkey and all the fixin's can be successfully paired with just about any type of wine.
The turkey itself possesses meat that has a variety of different flavors, colors and textures, which can match nicely with any medium- to full-bodied white or red. And, when you add the dishes that traditionally accompany Thanksgiving dinner, things really get interesting.
Whether you use a light, slightly sweet German Riesling or Alsatian pinot gris, a fruit-forward Grüner Veltliner or an herbal and dry sauvignon blanc (which pairs nicely with a sage-flavored bread dressing) or a rich and full-bodied chardonnay, you will find that oven-roasted turkey will pair nicely with each of these white wines.
However, what surprises so many folks (particularly those who adhere to the rigid view that you should only pair white wine with white meat) is how well turkey matches up to big red wines, especially when the "national bird" has been charcoal-grilled or smoked. Full-bodied reds like syrah, cabernet sauvignon, Châteauneuf-du-Pape or even zinfandel go especially well with smoked or grilled turkey.
Oven-roasted turkey is also very nicely accompanied by medium-bodied reds such as Chianti Classico, pinot noir or tempranillo, from Spain. Several years ago, I even opened older Bordeaux to celebrate the holiday.
But this year, I'm going for a semi-smoked, charcoal-grilled turkey.
Here's how I'm doing the national bird this year. After soaking my 15-pound turkey in a brine of kosher salt, brown sugar, water, apple cider and beer for about three hours, the bird will be stuffed with bread dressing to which Italian sausage, chestnuts, onion and celery will be added.