Picking The Right Thanksgiving Wine
Every year around late November, the phrase “Okay, you bring the wine for Thanksgiving” strikes fear into the hearts of millions of Americans. Thanksgiving dinner is the culinary equivalent to Dante’s Inferno and poses a distinct pairing challenge.
Why is Thanksgiving dinner so difficult? Well, let’s face it — turkey is pretty bland. We brine it, marinate it, stuff it, spice it, and perhaps even deep-fry it. Then we throw the entire kitchen pantry at it in an effort to add some flavor to the Thanksgiving meal.
To further complicate the Thanksgiving conundrum, the meal can be completely different in every home. It’s not easy to try to find the right wine for the hodgepodge that is each of our Thanksgiving dinners. Like a favorite pair of jeans, each of us has familiar and comfortable “traditional family” dishes, without which Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be the same.
From my experience, most Thanksgiving meals are distinctively sweet. Adding sweetness in any form — cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, marshmallows — changes the wine equation.
So here’s the vinous equivalent of a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card: If anything, and I mean anything, on your Thanksgiving table is sweet then you can’t serve a bone-dry wine. It doesn’t matter whether it’s red or white, if there’s anything sweet on the plate, a bone-dry wine will clash with the food.
A great wine selection would be a fruit-focused or fruit-forward California or Oregon Pinot Noir that is not oaky, like the 2010 Angeline (California) or 2009 Artisanal (Oregon). If you want a little wood, try a California zinfandel like the 2009 Quivira, which has lots of fruit.
If your Thanksgiving dinner is truly savory, then I would opt for a delicious glass of food-friendly Beaujolais like 2009 Chateau Prety, or Red Burgundy (Bourgogne) like 2009 Jean Michel et Laurent Pillot. Another delicious French Pinot Noir is the 2009 Grosbot-Barbara Chambre d’Edouard from the Loire Valley. Overall 2009 was an outstanding vintage throughout France.
Be sure to stay away from reds with aggressive grape tannins such as young red Bordeaux, Argentine Malbec or most California Cabernet. The tannins make turkey taste metallic.
While many people prefer red wine with turkey, I prefer white, such as a Pinot Gris from Oregon like 2010 Willow Crest, Pinot Blanc from Alsace like 2010 Fritsch, or a slightly off dry Mosel Kabinett from Germany like 2009 Ehlen Erderner Treppchen.
With the weather turning cooler, a bottle of 10-year-old Tawny Port as a gift for your host is a great idea. Nothing is more welcomed as the autumn nights turn cooler than a small glass of port and it keeps in the refrigerator for months.
And don’t forget to bring Champagne or your favorite sparkling wine to drink while cooking or watching Thanksgiving football. A glass or two of bubbly will keep the cook and guests happy.
- 2010 Angeline Pinot Noir – $12.99
- 2009 Chateau Prety Beaujolais Villages – $14.99
- 2009 Sean Minor Four Bears Pinot Noir – $16.99
- 2009 Grosbot-Barbara Chambre d’Edouard – $16.99
- 2009 Quivira Zinfandel – $19.99
- 2009 Jean Michel et Laurent Pillot Bourgogne – $21.99
- 2009 Artisanal Pinot Noir – $24.99
- 2008 Baileyana Pinot Noir – $25.99
- 2010 Willow Crest Pinot Gris – $14.99
- 2009 Cave Spring Riesling – $14.99
- 2010 Fritsch Pinot Blanc – $14.99
- 2009 Ehlen Erderner Treppchen Kabinett – $15.99
- 2009 Domaine Larredya Jurançon Sec – $19.99
- Dumont NV – $35.99
- Jose Michel Tradition NV – $38.99
- Jean Vesselle Reserve – $44.99
- Burmester Jockey Club Reserve – $25.99
- Quinta de La Rosa 10 Year – $29.99