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Pairing pitfalls

It's wise to avoid certain flavours when looking for a grape to go with your gobbler

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Usually at this time of year I'd put together a list of my top picks for Thanksgiving wines -- whites, reds and otherwise -- for your shopping convenience. But as someone who loves experimenting with wine and food combinations, I like to encourage wine lovers to find a new favourite -- to go beyond the tried-and-true wines when it comes to picking something to go with that big bird and the savoury root veggies.

So with that in mind, I offer some suggestions of things to avoid when pairing wine with your Thanksgiving meal. Your task, then, is to simply avoid the pitfalls of certain wines while finding that new perfect match for your big meal.

In short, try to avoid:

 

TOO MUCH OAK. I like to recommend Chardonnay to pair with turkey, but I try to stick with examples of the wine that either aren't oaked at all or modestly oaked. Many of the big, rich Chardonnays you may know and love may have too much wood for your turkey dinner -- try an example that brings fresh fruit without too much barrel influence. Canadian Chardonnay -- especially those from Ontario -- would be a great option.

 

TOO MUCH TANNIN. What's tannin? Well, it's that mouth-drying feeling heavy red wines tend to impart. Tannin is found in many bigger, dark red wines like Malbec, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. While tannin in a red wine does well tangling with beef, game and heavier pork dishes, it's too stern for turkey.

To avoid tannin in your red wine choice, try a fruit-forward, entry-level Aussie red, a Pinot Noir or a Gamay. While Burgundy and Beaujolais are good options for the latter two, respectively, Ontario is once again a great option for both of these categories.

 

TOO MUCH SUGAR. A bit of sweetness in a white wine for Thanksgiving isn't a bad thing -- in fact, I'd say it's beneficial -- but you don't want to get anything super sweet. Avoid wines with an alcohol level lower than about 10.5 per cent. Wines around that particular range will tend to be off-dry, while those with lower alcohol levels can get a bit too sugary.

Many German white wines, for example, clock in between eight and nine per cent alcohol. Canadian Riesling and Gewürztraminer, however, are typically on the drier side and should work well.

 

SENSE A TREND EMERGING HERE? I'll give you a hint -- you needn't venture beyond wines made in our country's wine-producing regions to find a great Thanksgiving wine.

Oh, and if you do want a straight-up list of Thanksgiving recommendations, send me an email and I'll have one to you post-haste. Hint: start with the wines reviewed to the right.

 

uncorked@mts.net Twitter: @bensigurdson

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 6, 2012 E4

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Updated on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 1:32 PM CDT: adds fact box

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