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5 perfect turkey wines no one has ever told you about

December 6, 2019


By Erin Henderson

The legendary journalist Diane Sawyer said that news stories should always present “useful information and practical insights.”

I absolutely loved that and it’s a mandate we’ve adapted for Drink Toronto’s blogs and communiqués. We try as best we can to avoid useless newsletters and click-bait articles. My co-founder Dick and I are old-school journalists. We even have diplomas to prove it… I think I used mine as a coaster at my graduation party.

Here’s my dilemma, dear drink lovers: one of the most-googled wine searches at this time of the season is “what wine goes with turkey?”. And I can already tell you what thousands of articles say: Chardonnay! Pinot Noir! Zinfandel!

Those are bang-on recommendations. But I’d really like you to keep reading.

As directed by my sister-from-another-mister Diane (I can call her Diane), I want to give you something useful and practical — and hopefully something you haven’t heard before.

So may I humbly present my five wines that are bloody excellent pairings for your Christmas turkey. Hopefully, you heard it here first.

This is a sparkling red wine from Italy. Lambrusco is both the name of the style (as in, “I’ll have a glass of the Lambrusco”) and the grape itself (as in, “Lambrusco really makes a top-notch sparkler — too bad it’s still so unknown.”) Hailing from the Emilia-Romagna region, it’s typically light to medium bodied, dry but fruity, with flavours of strawberry, cherry and raspberry. This lip-smacking crimson bubbly makes a great dance partner for turkey because it has the acidity to juice up the dry white meat, while also cutting through the richness of the dark. And the fruit-forward flavours compliment the meat and match the omnipresent cranberry sauce.
Try: Pjcol Rosso Lambrusco, Emilia-Romagna, Italy $24.10 LCBO: 424472

It shocks me, quite frankly, how many people have yet to jump on the Gamay bandwagon. Gamay is the main grape of Beaujolais and it makes wines of excellent complexity and finesse. And not just from France, thank you very much. Ontario makes stellar examples. The poor cousin to Pinot Noir, the wine is light on its feet, with notes of spice and red fruits.
Try: Chateau des Charmes Gamay Noir, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario $15.95 LCBO: 57349

A few years ago I took part in an excellent lunch that paired each course to a different sparkling wine. The reason? So many wine lovers reserve Champagne and other fizz for New Year’s Eve and wedding toasts. But bubbles are one of the food-friendliest choices around. The crisp apple and lemon acidity cleanses your palate and gets you ready for the next bite, the rich toasty notes are quite complementary to most foods. And, it’s sexy as hell.
Try: Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava, Pendes, Spain $15.95 LCBO: 216960

Pronounced GUH-vertz-tram-EEner, and often shortened to “Gewürz” by those in the trade, this white wine can be a bit polarizing. Coming in both sweet and dry styles, the defining characteristics of Gewürtz is that of rose petals, lychee, and ginger spice. Heady, to say the least. If you can handle it, those musky, redolent floral and spice notes play against the largely neutral flavours of turkey, similar to how sauces and gravies help breathe a little life into the bird.
Try: Cave Spring Estate Gewürztraminer, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Ontario $18.95 Vintages: 302059

You can opt for still or sparkling with this option. Sparkling Shiraz, most commonly out of Australia, has a wonderful chameleon-like effect, mixing zippy bubbles, fruity flavours and richness into a home-run pairing. Still Syrah, with its dark fruit, smoke and pepper notes, is a sophisticated contrast to turkey’s neutral palate.
Try: Creekside Iconoclast Syrah, VQA St David’s Bench, Niagara, Ontario $25 Vintages: 471797

Thirsty for more? Our popular food-and-wine pairing class is happening again February 25, 2020.