The wine-food conundrum for Thanksgiving stems from the plethora of fruits, vegetables, spices and flavors on the plate all at once, rather than a seven-course dinner, right? If you think of Thanksgiving as a wine opportunity rather than a challenge, you have just solved the perennial puzzle.
My wine advice for your Thanksgiving table — whether it is store-bought, traditional, fancy or familial, vegetarian or vegan — is to serve a wide variety of wines. The decision should not be which wine to pour but which wines to pour. With this shotgun wine approach, you’re likely to please a majority of the palates at the table and make some fantastic pairings, too.
This can be an adventure for all. Have your friends and relatives bring their favorite wine or, better yet, an untried but often-heard-of bottle of wine. This approach also ensures quashing any political conversations with an “Oh my gosh! That wine is so great with your Waldorf salad, Aunt Kitty.”
What you learn from this experience is great practice for mastering the magic of food and wine pairing. Remember, it takes, practice, practice, practice.
Be it red, white or rosé, roast turkey, mashed potatoes and giblet gravy pair with most any wine, really. But it’s the relatives and friends and the side dishes that create this myriad of palates and flavors.
The multitude of Thanksgiving flavors is a whole lot of hearty, savory dishes. If the wine is hearty also, then it will work well because the dish and the wine are of similar weight. That’s the key.
So here’s my plan: First and foremost, greet your guests with a sparkling wine. Pour a vintage cuvée that could set you back $30+. You’re worth it.
For diversity, Washington’s Treveri Cellars makes premium sparkling wines from a wide array of grapes, such as the traditional Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to Riesling, Viognier, Gewurztraminer and even Syrah. Aged on average 24 months, these sparkling wines would make this occasion very special.
For a crowd, pour a Prosecco or a Spanish cava, your best bets for a tasty value. And if Gramma likes something sweeter, go for an extra dry sparkling or pour a dollop of OJ or raspberry syrup in her glass along with the bubbly. She’ll love it.
When everyone is seated and it’s time to present Tom Turkey, put a few chilled whites and some fruit-forward, medium-bodied reds on the table and let the pairing begin. You can smile, knowing you have just maneuvered around the age old question of what wine to have with Thanksgiving dinner.
Do you go with the traditional sage, sausage and onion stuffing, whipped potatoes, giblet gravy, candied yams, mashed rutabaga, turnips, glazed onions and cranberry sauce? Or do you put a cultural twist on the table with a chipotle rubbed smoked bird, red chili gravy and cornbread chorizo stuffing?
An off-dry Riesling, aromatic Gewürtztraminer, Oregon Niagara, new world Pinot Noir, full-bodied Spanish Tempranillo, Washington Merlot and a rich, red blend would cover most traditional dishes very nicely. With the spicier twist, bring on the Beaujolais Nouveau with its carbonic macerated fruitiness, a German Auslese, a jammy Zinfandel, Australian Shiraz and a rich, fruity Valpolicella Ripassa.
Or perhaps your family tradition is oyster stuffing, roasted Brussel sprouts and carrots with horseradish sauce, sweet potato soufflé, roasted squash, Waldorf salad, jellied cranberries and that green bean casserole from the soup can recipe.
Well, let me introduce you to Alsatian wines that are the most food-friendly wines on the planet. Choose from Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris or Riesling. Or chill up all four of these medium-bodied, French mountain grown whites and taste them side by side. A bevy of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs would also work very nicely with vegetables of every color and the wide assortment of herbs.
When it comes to food and wine, Italians seemed to have figured it all out a long time ago. Many Italian wines have an incredible ability to combine a medium-bodied wine with a ton of acid, and that translates to refreshing with rich foods.
From the Campania region, try the Falanghina grape, an Umbrian Orvieto and a full-bodied Gavi from Piedmont. For reds, nothing can beat the flavors or price of a Nero d’Avola, a juicy Barbera, or a Tuscan Sangiovese with its flavors of cherries and herbs.
Let’s broach the dilemma of dessert. What the heck does pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and mincemeat pie pair well with for goodness sake?
The dessert wine rule is always serve a wine that is sweeter than the dessert. When was the last time you tried an Oloroso sherry, Malmsey Madeira, Muscat Beaumes de Venise or a Tawny port? Well, it’s time. And be sure to bring out those small dessert glasses for these unctuous treats.
My annual advice remains the same: Open one of everything. Or at least, a wide assortment of wines that will go well with the variety of dishes on your holiday table. Find wines you like at prices you can afford and be sure to raise a glass with your family and friends with each and every glass.
Cheers and a very Happy Thanksgiving.