Selecting the Perfect Thanksgiving Wine
The holidays can be an incredibly fun time for making new memories and reliving old with family and friends. But for some, it’s also a time for high stress as many people are juggling too multiple tasks with limited time and competing agendas.
If you are hosting for Thanksgiving, then delegating is essential. As hostess (or host) will be super busy with the star of Thanksgiving, the meal. If you are an invited guest, realize anything you can do to help reduce their stress will be greatly appreciated. If you take the liberty to select and/or bring the Thanksgiving wine, you’ll be removing a huge burden from your hostess, who will be forever grateful.
Having volunteered to bring the wine, now you are in a panic. Well, don’t you stress. I wouldn’t leave you twisting in the wine aisle.
Here are some Thanksgiving wine pairing tips. You’ll also find wine selections broken down into styles.
The variety of foods served on the typical American Thasnkgiving table will run the gamut. Expect a host of foods ranging from salty to sweet and from fruity to earthy. There will also be a mix of creamy dishes, for example mac n cheese, as well as dishes with acidic flavors such as Brussels sprouts.
The thought of pairing a wine with some many foods may seem daunting. However, the key to choosing the right wine with these foods is to focus on wines with high acidity and mild, balanced fruit.
A Balanced Wine
It’s critical to pick a wine that has adequate fruitiness, but also is not cloyingly sweet. A balanced wine will offer a perfect contrast to tangy salad dressings too. You need to pick a wine that isn’t too dry nor too sweet. Easy, peasy right?
A perfect choice is a rosè. Did I just hear you say rosè is a wine for old ladies or limited to summer barbeques? Oh no you didn’t! First, nothing could be further from the truth. Secondly, open your mind and your taste buds will follow. They’ll also give you a big shout for for hooking them up. Thirdly, after you try this pairing, you’ll swear you hear me in the background saying, “I told you so.”
Wine selection: Rosè
2013 Domaine de la Mordoree La Dame Rousse, Tavel, France
When you can find this wine at your local wine merchant, then grab it; and grab a bottle for me too. It has gorgeous perfume and rose garden aromas. Don’t be put off by the strawberry flavor because it is a serious wine with a medium body but full-blown acidity. $23
2013 Fort Ross Vineyard Rosè of Pinot Noir, Sonoma County
A cool-climate growing region helps this dry wine showcase strong aromatics of rose petals and juicy white peach. You may taste tea leaves and raspberry, while enjoying brilliant acidity on the finish. $23
A Light and Refreshing Wine
A traditional Thanksgiving dinner is ladled with high-calorie, creamy rich foods. Yum! So it’s important to have a wine that will cut through the weight of these heavy dishes. A good way to think about wine weight is to compare wine to milk. There’s skim, 2% and whole milk, in ascending order of weightiness. For your crowded dinner table, you’re looking for a wine that has the weight of a skim milk. You want a wine that does not have too much weight, yet provides a perfect contrast to vegetable dishes. After each bite, a sip of crisp wine will cleanse the palate and prepare it for the next forkful.
Wine selection: Sparkling Wine or Unoaked Chardonnay
Graham Beck Brut Sparkling, South Africa
This southern hemisphere sparkling made in the traditional champagne method gives lovely citrus on the nose and that classic toast flavor commonly found in expensive champagne. In addition, it has that great minerality needed for successful food pairing. $18
2011 Val de Mer Chablis Premier Cru, Chablis
All Thanksgiving wines should taste as great is this unoaked Chardonnay from Burgundy, France. It has an apricot, Granny Smith apple and citrus flavor profile. This wine is well suited for seafood, veal, vegetables and cream-based dishes. The chalky terroir shines through with strong a mineral and acid taste, creating balance and a clean finish. This wine should be served chilled. $39.95
An Earthy Wine
An earthy can be the perfect complement to foods such as fowl, dressing, macaroni and cheese, mushrooms and gravy. This bottle choice needs to have a lighter structure than a Cabernet Sauvignon, but must still be hearty enough to stand up to these foods without overpowering them.
Wine selection: Pinot Noir
2012 Talley Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir, Arroyo Grande Valley
This wine smells and tastes like Thanksgiving. It has cherry pie and cranberries on the nose and tastes like turkey spices and black pepper, along with cherry and raspberry tart. The finish is smooth with no burning heat sensation although the alcohol level is 14.4%.
Let’s Not Forget Dessert
After you’ve gorged yourself and maybe even pushed away from the table, you’ll want to return for dessert. Port is a beautiful finish for a fabulous meal. Frequently, people overlook a wine pairing for the evening’s final dish. That is a huge mistake. Port will pair with a host of lush desserts ranging from chocolate, apple pie, sweet potato pie and a cheese course.
Tip: A bottle of port is a well-thought hostess gift. Not only will you be the only one bringing it, it will put the finishing touches to a great meal and an unforgettable gathering.
Wine selection: Icewine or Port
2012 Jackson-Triggs Reserve Vidal Icewine, Niagara
Your guests will go ga-ga over this tropical tasting wine. It has lush mango and apricot flavors that are a perfect accompaniment to an evening-ending cheese course or fruit pie. $35
Note: Be aware that icewine bottles are only 375 ml, which is a half bottle. You’ll use smaller glasses for everyone anyway as a lot is not needed due to the sweetness level but if you are pouring for a crowd, you’ll need more than one bottle.
Graham’s Late Bottle Vintage Port, Portugal
The deep ruby color hits of juicy, ripe fruit to come. The nose of this late-bottled-vintage (LBV) port gives off tobacco and overly ripe plums. Its flavors remind you of fig, plum jam, caramel and a little bit of chocolate. The sweetness level is spot on without being syrupy. Get your slice of chocolate cake and pour a glass of this excellent-valued wine. Look for any year from 2005 – 2008. $22
Note: A LBV is a vintage port that didn’t get released as such. It spends 4-6 years in casks, which is a longer time than vintage. Afterwards, it is can filtered or unfiltered and then bottled. Unfiltered seems to add a bit more character.
You Can Do It!
Pairing wine with Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t have to be a culinary nightmare. With these easy to follow food and wine pairing tips, you’ll be well on your way to having a successful turkey day.