Thanksgiving Wine Pairing Tips

Think outside protein: we show you how to pair by color and mood


With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it's easy to feel intimidated when it comes to pairing wines with your meal. Red? White? Merlot? Cabernet sauvignon? Sauvignon blanc? Our heads are already spinning.

The easiest trap to fall into is the traditional pairing with protein — red wine with meats, white wines with fish, and so on. Talk about a snoozefest. Fortunately, Kendall-Jackson Wines has thrown the rule book out the window and shared with The Daily Meal some unique tips for pairings this Thanksgiving. The newest app from Kendall-Jackson, K-J Recommends, takes protein out of the picture and focuses on two new angles: color and mood. What exactly does that mean? 

Color doesn't mean red or white anymore: instead, think of the color on your plate. Foods with a greenish tint, like kale, celery, and cilantro, will go with wines with a similar color — like that sauvignon blanc you've been eyeing. Compare that to the creamy, yellow-ish tint of a chardonnay that will go better with your yellow foods, like squash or corn. The red fruits we love, like goji berries and pomegranates, and red veggies, like beets and red cabbage, go perfectly with pinot noir. 

"For chefs, pairing by color is a nonsequitor; they already know that. But a lot of consumers were brought into this book of rules about pairings," Gilian Handelman, the director of education from Kendall-Jackson Wines, said. In fact, pairing wines by the colors on your plate is more intuitive than pairing by protein. 

Handelman said her own personal experience is that Thanksgiving is very much in the "red realm," thanks to all those winter veggies and fruits — mushrooms, cranberries, and persimmons, to name a few. 

But Thanksgiving is about more than just the food; the people surrounding you at the dinner table are just as important as what's on the dinner table. It's why the K-J Recommends app includes a social aspect to pick your wine. Are you with family? Friends? Business folk? A romantically involved partner? And what kind of experience do you want to have? Click through the app to get expert advice on what wine goes best with the experience you hope to have. (Or, click through the infographic on the Kendall-Jackson website.) "It's all about bringing people into a conversation about food and wine," Handelman said. And we all know just how important a glass of wine is to the Thanksgiving get-together with family. 

For Handelman's own Thanksgiving, she already has her wine list locked down. What she'll be drinking: 

Pinot Noir: "It's so soulful, it's got so much aromatics and texture to it." 

Chardonnay: "It's the most approachable wine at the table. 

Sauvignon Blanc: "It's zingy, full of energy — it's good for a high-energy family gathering." 

Riesling: "It's perfect for turkey; its acidity can handle the protein of the meat and absorb the fats from the rest of the meal, like the gravy." 

Need more pairing ideas? Check out the app from Kendall-Jackson. 

For more turkey talk, visit The Daily Meal's Guide to Thanksgiving!


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