Q: I usually have turkey with herbes de Provence (a la Williams-Sonoma's recipe). I also add a little cayenne to the skin while it's roasting. In addition to my herbed/semi-spiced turkey, I make stuffing with both sweet and hot Italian sausage. See my trend here? I prefer Cotes du Rhone for this meal but find it is not substantial enough for my flavorings. I don't want something too big (cab, zin, syrah, etc.) because I don't want to overpower the flavor of the food, but I don't want my wine to taste like water either.
—Helene Kremer, San Ramon, Calif.
A: You're commendably specific about the sort of wine you want. I was worried at first you might have drawn too narrow a box for yourself but e-mail exchanges with various wine experts reminded me once again that there are no end to the possibilities when it comes to a good food-wine pairing. Here are some ideas from the pros:
"There is no perfect match with this dish; the idea is just not to screw up,'' Bruce Schoenfeld, wine and spirits editor at Travel + Leisure magazine, wrote from China, where he is on assignment. "So, no sauvignon blanc, no delicate pinots, no old Bordeaux."
Schoenfeld thinks the best route might be a big white, like a Far Niente or Leeuwin Estate chardonnay. But he'd prefer a red wine, so he'd try a cru barbera, like a Vietti or Pio Cesare. Or, going in the opposite direction, maybe a cabernet franc from Chinon or a cab franc blend like Cadence in Washington.
Megan Headley, food and wine editor for C-VILLE Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., likes the "what grows together goes together" rule for wine-food pairing.
"While the bird's herbes de Provence rub makes me think Bandol (the mourvedre-based red from Provence that offers up sun-drenched black fruits with a sprinkle of cinnamon), the cayenne and Italian sausage curveballs steer me to southern Italy where they're masters of taming spice with fruit rather than obliterating it with alcohol," Headley wrote. "Primitivo from Puglia matches red zinfandel's DNA yet won't get you sloshed after one glass. Aglianico from Campania and Basilicata is as broody and tempestuous as the volcanoes in the area, but with plums and bittersweet chocolate to make up for any explosive moodiness. And Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, all blackberries and truffles, is about as versatile a food wine as I've ever known."
Lastly, I reached out to Evan Goldstein, president and "chief education officer" at Full Circle Wine Solutions Inc., a wine and spirits education firm in San Carlos, Calif., and author of "Daring Pairings: A Master Sommelier Matches Distinctive Wine with Recipes from His Favorite Chefs." He said most folks match the wines to the sides if the turkey is the usual dull bird. But, spicing up the turkey as you do can make for pairing fun.
"Opt for off dry and aromatic whites (off-dry riesling, chenin blanc …or viognier, pinot gris) and fruit-forward but not overly alcoholic reds (some styles of merlot, ripe but not over the top grenache, or fruit-forward pinot noirs or even slightly aged cabernet (to tame the tannins with time)," Goldstein wrote. "You could do bubbly…and I have tried—well, table wine somehow deems and feels (and tastes) better for this occasion."
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