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Choosing a wine for ham or turkey

Holiday meals are special occasions which usually call for a festive bottle of wine.

Traditional holiday meals often include either ham or turkey, which causes some debate, and confusion, over what wine should be served.

Pairing wines with these two main dishes can be a little tricky. Let's take a look at these holiday meals and see if we can break them down and determine which wines would pair well.

Ham - glazed or smoked

Many holiday hams are cooked using a heavy sauce of some sort, glazed to form a crispy crust, which makes them sweet to the taste. There are also hams with more of a smoky flavor, the type that are cured and aged. In general, the heavier flavors of a glazed ham should be paired with a wine that has higher acidity levels, such as a Riesling, or a simple White Zinfandel; Gewurztraminer is also a good choice. Lighter hams, those that have a smoky flavor usually go well with a Pinot Noir or a Vouvray.

The reasons these different flavors go well together is that the meal becomes more balanced. The acidity of the Riesling will help cut through the sweet, sugary flavor of the glazed hams, while the fruity undertones of the Pinot Noir will help taper off the smoky flavor of the cured or smoky ham. Heavier wines will drown out the flavors of the ham by overpowering them with either heat from the alcohol or too much pizzazz from the rich flavors.

Turkey - white or dark

Turkey and stuffing pair well with a white wine that has some acidity to it, like a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris. For something different, you could also try a light-bodied red wine like a Beaujolais Nouveau or Pinot Noir.

The white meat of a turkey has a drier texture than dark meat. In order to balance out the texture of white meat, it would not be wise to serve a dry wine as this would not help to quench that need for moisture. Sweeter wines are generally the go-to for white meat as they force the palate to salivate. Any light, sweet wine will do. You may wish to try a sweet German wine.

If you want a wine that will please everyone at the table, try a sparkling wine or Champagne.

When it comes to side dishes, gravy goes well with red wines like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. Mashed potatoes are best paired with buttery Chardonnays or Viogniers. Green beans are tasty with Sauvignon Blancs or Finger Lakes Rieslings. And pumpkin pie? We recommend pairing it with an off-dry Riesling or Moscato d'Asti.

All you need to know about types of wine