Wine Pairing with Thanksgiving Turkey

Nov 12

I thought it might be fun to have a post about wine, with some info on how to taste wine, and then a focus on pairing wine with food. People often ask what wine to drink with meat, fish, poultry, etc. The only rule I follow with wine is to drink what you like.
With the Thanksgiving holiday in the US is just around the corner, we’ve had some great conversations with customers at the shop in Palm Springs on what wine to serve with turkey. By no means would I consider myself an expert, but I do have a few suggestions for the types of wine I like with a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner.

In general, I tend to prefer lighter wines with turkey. For white wine I suggest a Sauvignon Blanc, and for the red, go with a Pinot Noir. If you are dining with people who enjoy wine, I highly suggest starting with the Sauvignon Blanc, and working your way to the Pinot Noir with the turkey itself. I am partial to reds, so that is what I am writing about in this post. But before I get into the pairings any further, let me share a few tips on how to taste wine, there are three key attributes that you should look for to define a wine: sight, nose and taste.
Let’s start with sight.

First, pick up the glass by the stem or base, and hold the glass up to light, or near a candle on the table. There are two things to evaluate: color and clarity.

  • Color: Try to evaluate how intense the wine’s color is and what it conveys about the character of the wine. A light, pale white wine will usually have less body and flavor compared to a golden wine. Similarly, a pale red wine will typically have less body than a deep, dark colored red wine.
  • Clarity: This term refers to the absence or presence of particles or sediment floating in the wine. Similar to a diamond, usually people will evaluate clarity as brilliant, clear or cloudy. Brilliant means absolutely no sediment and crystal clear. Clear means no sediment but not brilliant. Cloudy, of course means you can see sediment or particles, with a muddy look.


To evaluate the “nose” of a wine, swirl the wine in the glass to release the aromas. Hold the glass close to your nose and inhale. Don’t be afraid to put your nose deep in the glass! Try to evaluate the aroma and bouquet.

  • Aroma, similar to coffee, are smells that are directly related to the odor of the fresh wine grape.
  • Bouquet refers to smells that come from the fermentation or aging process. You can also use the term bouquet to describe it’s overall smell.


This one seems easy enough, right? But it’s the one people struggle to describe. Start with a small amount of wine in your mouth, breath in some air through your nose, and then swallow slowly. As the wine passes your tongue and glides down your throat, try to evaluate the body and the finish of the wine.
Body is usually described in three ways: Light-Medium-Full

  • Light = watery, or thin (think skim milk)
  • Medium = fuller than light, but not too heavy in texture (think regular milk)
  • Full = Very robust, rich, and mouth-coating in texture (think heavy cream)


Typically people describe finish as either short, long, clean, or unpleasant.

  • Short = Very little aftertaste, the wine’s flavors disappear quickly.
  • Long = Lingering aftertaste; the wine’s flavor is noticeable for some length of time.
  • Clean = Pleasurable finish, free of any unpleasant taste. It can be either long or short, or course.
  • Unpleasant = No surprise here: It’s unpleasant, caused by bitterness, overly sweet, tart, or just bad flavors.

All these terms will help you create an overall impression. Don’t be afraid to try this at home.

Tasting A Pinot Noir

Pinots are known for having a light to medium body with aromas like black cherry, currant and even raspberry.

Pinot Noirs usually have a lighter color than many other reds. As with any wine, always observe the color first. Whether white or red, take a look. Enjoy the richness of the wine.

Let your mind wander with the color…how does it make you feel? Warm and cozy? Light and airy?

Then smell the wine. Put your nose right in the glass and inhale deeply. Close your eyes and let your senses take over. Then sip it, and enjoy. A Pinot will smell and taste lighter than many reds as well.

For Thanksgiving dinner, consider serving a range of two or three wines for your guests to enjoy. Serve with fresh grapes, sliced apples, cheese, mixed nuts and a good, high quality dark chocolate.

Relax with the wine and enjoy yourself. Living in Palm Springs, I like to enjoy my wine outside, under the big desert sky. But wherever you live, when you drink wine, r-e-l-a-x, enjoy it. Let the flavor wash over you, so to speak. Let it romance you. Enjoy some chocolate as you sip your wines…it enhances the flavor!

At our Memento Gift Shop, we carry a few accessories and gifts for wine tasting and a few cheese plates. Check out our selection sometime, we’d love to help you find a fun gift for a friend who enjoys wine.

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