Gail Simmons' Tips On Pairing Wine With Your Thanksgiving Dinner - Exclusive

While putting together a Thanksgiving spread may be relatively straightforward –- especially if it involves the same turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and veggies each year –- choosing the perfect wines to pair with your holiday meal may not be as simple for many. There are a seemingly endless selection of bottles to choose from, but thankfully, chef and food expert, not to mention longtime "Top Chef" judge, Gail Simmons has some advice to help you put the meal into perspective, so your wine pairings can follow suit. 

As someone who's worked with and tasted the food of many chefs, Simmons is the first to recognize that there are a lot of different culinary styles out there that can and should be the first consideration when choosing your complementary beverages. "People express Thanksgiving in different ways. A turkey is not standard. It depends on the culture and the flavors and the spices that you're using," she told Tasting Table.

In an exclusive interview, Simmons shared her tips for pairing wine with your Thanksgiving menu, and she has suggestions for whether you prefer white, red, or love both. 

It's all about balancing big, bold, and heavy flavors at the holidays, says Gail Simmons

Gail Simmons told Tasting Table, "If you're eating that fall cozy meal, and if you're incorporating a lot of slightly richer ingredients, then look for wine that's going to stand up to them," yet she said it's important to find a balance so that when you're gearing up to chow down on holiday foods that "are a little bit heartier ... you don't want wines that are "going to weigh you down and put you to sleep."  

However, that doesn't mean you should opt for a wine that's so mellow that it gets buried beneath the heavier, richer ingredients and spices that dominate so many fall dishes. "I want a wine that compliments and that I can drink easily and pair easily, so that it never feels too weighty but it still has a foundation, still has some structure," says Simmons. "That's why that medium body range is perfect ... It's perfect with heavier meats, but it's also great with turkey. It's great with some of those cheesy, mushroomy fall flavors that I start to create at the holidays, too," she adds.

Simmons says for her, Diora Pinot Noir is "the perfect Thanksgiving wine. It's great with your turkey, and it's also delicious with all those veggie sides that are a little bit heartier."

Simmons says don't be afraid to breakout the white wine

With so much talk of all these heavy ingredients and decadent flavors, you might think white wine has no place on the holiday dinner table. But think again. Gail Simmons says "I drink white wine all year round," and notes that it's all about the characteristics of the bottle, and "it depends on what you're eating, too." 

She points out that "as there are ranges of red, there's huge ranges of white. When I'm looking for a white wine for Thanksgiving, I'm looking for a wine that has a little more body, not that super light white that will get lost with the traditional flavors of Thanksgiving." She adds that it "doesn't mean by any means that it needs to be over-oaked and super heavy either." 

Full-bodied white wine comes in all shapes and sizes; anything from an oaky Viognier or a ripe, sweet Muscat, to "a great chardonnay that has those nutty, slightly oakier notes that will hold up to heavier wine or heavier food," Simmons says. And at the end of the day, if you truly can't make up your mind between white and red, Simmons says you can always "do one of each."

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