Perfect pairings for your Thanksgiving feast

Monday, November 21, 2016
A wine bottle and cork next to a wine glass


Nelson Barber
Nelson Barber, aka Dr. Wine, is chair of the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics hospitality management program and he’s a professor in the program as well, teaching such classes as International Food and Culture, International Wines and Advanced Food and Beverage.

Thanksgiving is about sharing the day with friends and family. However, the traditional roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole and pumpkin or pecan pie are not everyone’s food choices today. With so many different cultural influences and family traditions, the variety of foods to celebrate is vast.

Some of us might be celebrating with peach stuffing (a favorite dish in Georgia), fresh oyster stuffing (a Cape Cod tradition), roasted butternut lasagna (a favorite of my vegetarian friends) or Turkish fig-and-cranberry chutney. And for seafood lovers who are not into turkey, there might be Spanish mackerel, lobsters or grilled octopus. No matter what your choice of feast, the wine you like is the best wine for your Thanksgiving. But in case you need suggestions, here are some great ones.

Austrian Wine

Who’d have thought we’d be talking about Austrian wine for an American holiday? Austria produces wonderful red and white food-friendly wines that are crisp and refreshing — sure to complement your meal and not overpower it. Here are some to consider.


The most commonly planted red grape in Austria is zweigelt. Much of the zweigelt produced is destined to be enjoyed in its youth, when it's full of fresh, crunchy berry fruit and sprightly acidic. The wine is medium to full-bodied and has a similar flavor profile to that of Beaujolais. It is very food-friendly and makes an exceptional pairing with many roast meats, especially turkey. New Hampshire does not carry these wines, unfortunately, but you can order them online for home delivery. Try Weingut Pfaffl Zweigelt Austrian, $11.99 from

Blauer Burgunder (Pinot Noir)

Austrian pinots are lighter-bodied examples, with noticeably fragrant aromatics and crisp, fine-grained tannins that allow the wine to age deceptively well. Pinot noir wines are generally light- to medium-bodied in weight. This wine works well with herb-roasted turkey and gravy or glazed sweet potatoes, such as Five-Spice Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Walnut Toffee. A good example found in New Hampshire is Hopler Pinot Noir Austria, $17.99, item number 3373.

Grüner Veltliner (Green Veltliner)

Grüner veltliner is Austria's most important white grape variety, representing one-third of all white grapes planted. It is a somewhat aromatic variety, with aromas of stone fruit, citrus, spice and white pepper. This wine is particularly food-friendly and pairs well with roast pork or veal, especially with a creamy sauce. Poached salmon is another great match. Try Hopler Gruner Veltliner, $12.99, item number 33731.

Domestic Selections

For domestic selections, include wines made in California or Oregon. In California, think Carneros — juicy, wild red fruit and lighter in body — with turkey or dishes that include soy sauce or honey, like Soy-Sauce-and-Honey-Glazed Turkey, or consider Russian River Valley — weightier, fuller-bodied and darker fruit flavors — with bread stuffings, such as the Fig-and-Almond Bread Stuffing with Fennel.

Finally, consider crisp and refreshing whites from Oregon, like Erath Pinot Gris, $12.99, item number 32107. This wine pairs well with seafood in addition to traditional Thanksgiving fare. Try it with Grilled Squid Salad with Celery Leaf Pesto or Tea-Steamed Cod Baked in Paper.

However you plan your Thanksgiving feast, remember to relax, enjoy the time with family and friends and think about what has gone before that gave rise to this special holiday. 

As New Englanders prepare to sit down to give thanks, their Thanksgiving tables may be filled with an abundant supply of delicious, locally and regionally grown foods due to extensive agricultural research conducted by the University of New Hampshire. Article