For many Americans, Thanksgiving is the classic start to the busy holiday season. In total there are 45 observed holidays from all forms of belief and religion from the 1st of November to the 1st of January. As one of the largest, if not the largest American Holiday, the amount of food and drink consumed during this day is immense. And one of the most fun – yet vexing – aspects of Thanksgiving is getting the right wine for what can be a very varied collection of food.
Pairing with the main course is easy enough, turkey or goose go very well with pinot noir and gamay for red wines, and steel aged or lightly oaked chardonnays and pinot blanc for white, but its all the other dishes and side dishes that can throw a wrench into your pairings. Think about your average thanksgiving spread: turkey/goose, mashed potatoes with gravy, peas/carrots/corn, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, chestnuts, rolls with butter, etc., together they form an incredible meal, pairing wines becomes a mild nightmare.
So, as a remedy to the possible woes this may cause, we have several more options that may fit the bill!
Zinfandel (medium-bodied, served at 60-62*) – This choice mystifies many people, but remember, its flavor profile and body are the same reason that cranberry sauce has been a constant for so many years. Juicy red fruit, moderate acidity and fine tannins bring out the autumn spices of the meal, and the mild earthiness compliments the dark meat and the gravy.
Rhone Valley Blends (medium bodied, served at 55-60*) – A favorite for many wine geeks. Preferably with some decent age. The earthiness pairs with the dark meat and gravy, the notes of dried fruit, dried berries and fig go great with squash and stuffing, and if you’re serving smoked turkey, the boldness matches perfectly.
Amarone (medium-heavy bodied, served at 60-65*) – For those who want saltier meats at the table, and have hedonism on the mind. The bold flavors of cherry, dried fruit and figs, raisins and chocolate go so well with salty meats and gravy, it should almost be illegal. But since its not, have at it. Not cheap by any means, but worth every cent.
Rose (light-medium bodied, served at 46-48*) – When people can’t agree on red or white, rose can save the day! Lean fruit and bright acidity compliment the white meat, and cleanses the palate. And if you want a bit more weight, a blend from Tavel (Rhone Valley) brings that and more crisp fruit!
Champagne (light-medium bodied, served at 42-45*) – Perfect for starting off the festivities, and can be brought right to the table. Great acidity and weight, that classic bready/yeasty quality fits right in, and the fruit of the wine is brought forward by the fat and salt tasted throughout the meal!
Sancerre (medium bodied, served at 42-46*) – Sauvignon Blanc at its finest, yet somehow still underrated as a wine for the day. The herbal notes and acidity pair with the vegetable casseroles, Brussel sprouts, and asparagus, while cleansing the palate for the heavier aspects of the meal. Our mouths are watering just thinking about it.
And don’t forget the classic examples:
Pinot Noir (Light bodied, served at 56-58*) – Classic. The light body goes well with light or dark meat, the saltiness of the meal brings out the red fruits, and it pairs well with mashed potatoes and various casseroles.
Gamay (light-medium bodied, served at 51-54*) – Balances out the sweetness factor found in the meal with its earthiness and savory characteristics, pairs especially well with white meat, berries, squash, and salads. Bypass the Beaujolais Nouveau, and go for a Cru!
Chardonnay (medium-heavy bodied, served at 48-53*) – For those who must have white wine. As stated before, something aged steel is a personal favorite for many, but the application of oak (maybe try barrel fermented instead of barrel aged) gives a butteriness that cannot be denied. Old-world offerings give an acidity that washes the palate clean, and lets you taste your food better, while the New-world produces wines that give those classic tropical fruit notes that pair with the overall meal perfectly.
Pinot Blanc (light-medium bodied, served at 42-46*) – Creamy, often with hints of orchard fruit and melon. This a for those who stick with white meat and the lighter fair at the table, and want a wine to accentuate instead of overstate.
With so much range, enjoy picking out several different types of bottles for the festivities, it’s a day to be thankful, so don’t forget who and what you have in front of you that makes life so special!