Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving Wines

Regardless of how you celebrate Thanksgiving, one thing is certain: the Thanksgiving meal is all over the place. Sweet and savory, lean and rich, spicy and neutral, soft and crunchy, even hot and cold all find a place at the Thanksgiving table.
Oregon's 2012 vintage offers ripe and delicious Pinot Noir such as this beauty from Ken Wright 

With all those flavors, it’s no surprise that hosts and wine-toting guests find themselves in a pickle when it comes to choosing the best Thanksgiving wine.

To make your wine selection easier this year, keep a few of these ideas in mind.

If you’re serving one wine, make it a rosé. For all-around food-friendliness, it’s tough to beat rosé. Pinks, whether sparkling or still, will sing with turkey, savory stuffing and many of the Thanksgiving sides – except for Grandma’s sweet potato casserole. Skip the very dry and lighter Provençal styles and look for a lustier, heftier version such as rosés made from Malbec, Pinot Noir, Montepulciano or other non-traditional red grapes.

Add some sparkle to your table. Consider starting with a bubbly that’s just slightly sweet and refreshing such as Prosecco. If many of your dishes have a fruit base, consider floral and fruity Moscato d’Asti. Red sparklers such as Lambrusco or Brachetto d’Acqui make terrific Thanksgiving wines that are practically guaranteed to make your celebration a bit more festive and special.

Cover your bases: serve two types of wine. It’s practically unfair to expect a single wine to work with all the flavors and textures of Thanksgiving. Besides, some of your guests might be full-blooded white or red wine drinkers who will want to drink their favorite color no matter what. Give your guests the choice.

These simple rules will guide you to wines that will reward your inner sommelier:

  • Lower alcohol wins. Not only will you help keep your guests from getting tipsy, but lower alcohol wines also offer better balance with the heaviness and sheer quantity of holiday foods.
  • Serve palate refreshers. Higher acids wines will keep the palate refreshed for multiple courses, especially with richer foods. 
  • Slightly sweet works. Off-dry whites or sparklers can work well with a variety of foods, from savory to spicy to somewhat sweet. With reds, look for fruitier wines or try some of the new slightly sweet reds and red blends.
  • Nix the tannin and oak. Big and oaky wines will fill your belly faster than that third helping of stuffing. Tannic wines won’t work with lean turkey and most of the holiday sides – save these for the December holiday roasts.

Here’s my list of wines or styles that have a better chance of working with all the trappings of Thanksgiving, with my favorites in bold:

Sparklers: Rosé, Prosecco, Vouvray, Lambrusco, Moscato d’Asti, Brachetto d’Acqui

Pinks: Rosé, still or sparkling

Whites: Chenin Blanc/Vouvray, Pinot Gris (Oregon or Alsace), Riesling (off-dry)

Reds: Pinot Noir (New World), Beaujolais, Valpolicella

Whichever wine you end up serving, resist the temptation to bust out that monster Cab, killer Zin or awesome Amarone. Pop those corks at next month's holiday celebration.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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