Back to articles Turkey Goes With What? - A Crash Course In Wine By Nadine Hughes

Categories: Family Fun

Many of you this month will host a special dinner for family and friends and give thanks for all that you have. And one of those things that you can give thanks for is my crash course in wine!
So many people get caught up with what wine to serve with their holiday meal. They?re afraid to experiment with wines, and usually go back to the same wine time and time again, regardless of what they are serving. I prefer to pair wines with each course, not only to provide something for everyone, but also to find that truly thinking about what wine flavours go with what food reaps great rewards. Below are some suggestions, but I encourage you to ask your local wine store what they think. Tell them what dish you are serving, and describe some of the ingredients to give them an idea of flavours. Remember to write down the wines you like and even save the labels as a reminder. Go out on a limb and try something new. Ask your guests what they think of the matching, as each person?s palate is unique. It will spark interesting conversations as well as provide insight into your next great matching. Cheers!

Here?s the fastest crash course in wine you?ll ever read in under 10 minutes...

Red Meat:

Most red meats are best with a red wine. Traditionally a Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, or a red Bordeaux work well with beef. Rioja works particularly well with lamb, as does Merlot and Chianti. For pork ? roasted or in a creamy sauce ? choose Chardonnay, but strong pork casseroles and sausages fare better with a red with rich, fatty tastes.

White Meat:

Chicken and turkey have a fairly delicate flavour, so white wines tend to be the best bet, although lighter reds can also work well. It depends on the way the meat is cooked: If it?s lightly grilled or in a salad, try an unoaked Chardonnay or light Italian white such as Soave or Pinot Grigio. If you?re doing roast chicken or turkey or serving a strongly flavoured sauce, match it with a lighter red, such as Pinot Noir.

Spicy Foods:

Matching spices with wine can be tricky, especially as you often have several dishes at once, all with competing flavours. If you?re having Chinese food, go for aromatic wines like Gew�rztraminer or Riesling. For Thai food, try a crisp white such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, while tomato-based dishes work better with Italian whites like Pinot Grigio. For a traditional Indian curry, a big fruity red like a Californian Zinfandel, or Australian Shiraz is your best bet.


The delicate flavour of shellfish such as lobster, crab and shrimp is very often complimented by light wines such as Chablis or un-oaked Chardonnays. My absolute favourite shellfish/wine pairing however is a Sparkling Wine such as a Spanish Cava or Italian Prosecco.


The more delicate the flavour of the fish, the lighter the wine needs to be. For grilled white fish, use dry, zesty wines like Sauvignon Blanc. Strongly-flavoured fish such as fresh tuna or salmon, especially when accompanied by creamy sauces, tend to pair better with more robust wines such as Chardonnay.


Like the countless regional dishes in Italy, so too are there many wines to match. To keep it simple and tasty you can?t go wrong with light whites for seafood pasta, and fruity reds for meaty pastas. If you?re lucky, find out what region of Italy the pasta dish is from and match it with the same regional wine.


Cheese and wine is a perfect partnership, but you can often go horribly wrong when matching a wine to a specific type of cheese. Hard cheeses like Cheddar can work well with whites such as Chablis or Australian Chardonnay, as well as reds like Chianti or Chilean Merlot. The stronger flavours of cheeses like Stilton and blue cheeses are usually paired with port, but it also tastes delicious with sweet wines like Sauternes. Partner creamy cheeses with rich white rinds, such as Brie, Camembert and goats? cheese, with Sauvignon Blanc.


When it comes to desserts, there?s just one rule: pick a wine that?s as sweet as, or slightly sweeter than your dessert. Fruity desserts taste great with sweet sparkling Italian wines. Chocolate is notoriously tricky to match, but the traditional pairing of chocolate and orange work well with an Orange Muscat. Creamy desserts like cr�me br�l�e and cheesecake taste great with a Muscat as well.

Nadine Hughes is the creator and owner of, The Cook?s Companion and The Menu Companion, through which she offers kitchen consultations, menu planning services as well as private cooking classes for adults and teens throughout Southern Ontario. She is also an award winning author. Pick up a copy of her latest cookbook ?The Groove Mamma Goes Gourmet ? Easy Ways To Put The Fun Back Into Entertaining? (awarded Best Canadian Entertaining Cookbook at the 2009 Gourmand Cookbook Awards) for $7.98 at