Pairing Turkey and Wine



Photographs by Joe Ferraro

Turkey is actually pretty flexible when it comes to wine pairing, says George Shube, owner of Shubie’s Marketplace in Marblehead. It’s all those pesky side dishes that cause the trouble.

“Matching up with turkey is really easy,” Shube says, noting that the holiday bird can pair well with either red or white wine in a variety of weights and flavors. But add in those fixings, especially sweet potato casserole or even just butternut squash, and that’s where the finesse comes in.

“Too much sweetness will make [wine] taste bitter,” Shube says. So for the Thanksgiving table, he recommends choosing something that is fruit-forward, which does not mean sweet. 

“A lot of people, when you say fruit, they cringe and think it will be sweet,” Shube says, “but that isn’t the case.”

For example, try a pinot gris from Alsace—the same grape as the ubiquitous pinot grigio, but with a completely different style, rich and fruity with an aromatic nose but bone dry on the palate.

While pinot gris isn’t necessarily a wine for which customers often come looking, whenever someone does try it, they always enjoy it, Shube says. “We’re all creatures of habit, but sometimes being adventurous can yield positive results,” he says.

One adventurous choice that is also very much on-trend right now is hard cider, notes Shubie’s manager, Dougy Shube. “Cider is very popular right now,” the younger Shube says, adding that most of the ciders in the store are dry, with just a hint of sweetness, making them perfect with the turkey and all the sides. Ciders are light and refreshing, and generally lower in alcohol than wine, making them a great accompaniment to a lengthy holiday meal. Not to mention that cider is usually gluten-free and about as local and American as you can get.

Whether it’s apples or grapes, if you’re feeling adventurous, Shubie’s has a lot of great ideas, but George Shube says not to get too caught up in perfect pairings—just choose something you’d enjoy drinking. “Really, it’s hard to make a mistake, because as long as you know what you like, you’re a connoisseur,” he says. “You can serve just about anything—so if you like Bordeaux, go for it!” Here are some of Shube’s picks for adventurous Thanksgiving pairings:

Pinot Gris: Try the Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés ($20) or its Grand Cru sibling, Spiegel ($35). Both whites are aromatic with plenty of flavor to stand up to a varied meal, but the Grand Cru has more texture and richness.

Viognier: A floral nose gives way to peaches and apricots in this white wine indigenous to the Northern Rhône Valley in France. The Francois Villard Les Contours de Deponcins ($30) comes from a vineyard that abuts Condrieu, which is well-known for producing the best Viognier around.

Beaujolais: Skip the Nouveau and seek out small producers for this French red packed with luscious fruit and lively acidity. The Stephane-Aviron Beaujolais Villages ($17) is bright and racy, like biting into a fresh-picked cherry.

Dolcetto: This Italian red wine, indigenous to the Piedmont region, can vary depending on where it is grown and how it is cultivated—the best ones, like the Pecchenino San Luigi Dogliani ($20) from the Dogliani region, are vibrant, light, and fresh.

Cider: Wunderkind ($12.99 for four 12-ounce bottles) from Somerville–based Bantam uses all local apples and a touch of flower-blossom honey to create a festive beverage that drinks more like a sparkling French wine than a cider. Carr’s Cider House makes all their drinks from a 1,200-tree farm in Hadley. Try their barrel-aged off-dry cider ($16.99 for 750 ml.) that has just a touch of smokiness and sweetness, or their ginger cider ($16.99 for 750 ml.)—spicy and dry, it’s great over ice, or mix it with gin for an autumnal twist on a gin and tonic.