Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I can’t be more excited. As I write this I’m also cooking my run through recipes for Thanksgiving, i.e. recipes I want to try cooking before the big say to determine if they’re up to snuff or if I need another alternative. But, all this prep work made me realize I also still have to figure out what we will be drinking!
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As I’m sure you all know, wine can make or break a nice meal. On a casual night, I may drink milk with my spaghetti, but when I want to impress, the wine must accentuate the food. Pairing food with wine can seem overwhelming, but there are a few tips that make the process easier to manage. Normally, I’m a proponent of grow together go together, but a Thanksgiving spread usually incorporates flavors from a wide array of resources. Normally, you would drink white wine with poultry, but if you also serve roast beef, as many do, you may want to offer a red or a light bodied red to meet in the middle. Alas, there are so many choices, nearly 10,000 varietals not to mention blends and D.O.C’s, to choose from, I’m happy to offer my personal recommendations.
My family treats Thanksgiving like a party. We have appetizers in the morning while watching TV, followed by dinner, and a few hours later we finish with dessert. We tend to have a large group and plan our wine accordingly. Each bottle can pour approximately 5 glasses. If you assume that people will have 2 drinks the first hour and one every hour after that, it will tell you how many drinks you will need to have available.
Example: This year we have only 8 people. We expect guests to arrive around 2 to socialize and to leave around 7 or 8. That means we would potentially be drinking for 6 hours and would need approximately 7 drinks per person. (This is a high estimate of course.) Now, 7 x 8 is 56. No one in our group prefers beer, so we would need (56/5) 11 bottles of wine. Again, this is a high estimate so I don’t mind rounding down, but in this case I would probably just buy an even case as most places give a case discount. Generally 60% of a room will drink red wine and the other 40% will drink white, which means I should have 7 bottles of red and 5 bottles of white. Now that you know how much wine to get for you dinner let’s talk pairings.
I always start a dinner or party with a sparkling wine. If you like the toasty-ness of champagne the Willm line has a few great sparkling wines including their entry level, a cremant, and a cremant rose. These are all made in the traditional champenoise style, with the secondary fermentation happening inside the bottle, providing that yeast like quality complimented by citrus fruit and pear notes.
If you don’t love champagne, but prefer a sweeter crisper flavor look for cava from Spain. I have had a few cava’s that are phenomenal for only $10. They are normally a blend of xerel-lo and macabeo, or other native spanish grapes and you can find them blanc or rose.
If you tend to deep fry your turkey the bubbles from a sparkling wine would pair quite nicely, cutting through the rich, crispy fat and salt.
As I mentioned before, white wine pairs wonderfully with poultry and should go well with most of the flavors on your table. I personally love the fruit and floral balance of Viognier and as most of my table consists of American style foods, a Virginia grown bottling pairs perfectly. My favorites this year would be Jefferson Vineyards or White Hall Vineyards.
If you’re not a fan of Virginia wines I would look for a Viognier from France or perhaps move more into Chardonnay from burgundy or better yet the Loire valley. “What’s the difference,” you might ask? Well, burgundy tends to have that oaky, buttery quality while the Loire Valley tends to have more acidity and minerality.
If you have drinkers with a sweeter palate you can find beautiful Rieslings coming out of the Finger Lakes regions of New York state or even better would be Germany. Their bracing acidity keeps the sweet on the front of the palate but well balanced so as not to overpower the rest of meal.
Mid-november is when the beaujolais red wines are released. These are a particularly seasonal wine of fresh pressed juice from the preceding vintage so only about a year old which keeps the fruit fresh and the alcohol relatively low. Their malolactic characteristic makes it a great pairing for almost all foods but it’s particularly nice with a Thanksgiving spread
California or Oregon Pinot Noir are also a fantastic Thanksgiving red wine option they have a lighter body but still key characteristics and just the slightest hint of earthiness to bring interest to the palate.
If you like your Reds a bit Bolder I would highly recommend anything from the cotes du Rhone region this includes chateauneuf de pape and côte rôtie. These Blends can involve any number of 22 varietals but generally they use Grenache Syrah and mourvedre. They are fruit forward with hints of spiciness rich dark fruits and luxury in a bottle. They can be priced anywhere from $10 all the way up to 100 though so Choose Wisely. E guigal is my favorite producer at the moment and they do have Rhone whites as well that are worth trying.
You may think that pink wine is strictly for spring and summer but don’t be confused rozay is great year round particularly with spreads as varied as Thanksgiving dinner. If you have ham on your table I highly recommend you pour a rose because these dry fruit forward bottles pair beautifully with the sweet fattiness of pork. Look for something from Provence or done in a Provence all style which means it will be late dry with Berry notes up front.
Well many people think that sweet wines cause headaches they are a great way to finish a meal just like you would eat your pie after your Thanksgiving feast you should pair ot with a sweet wine as an aperitif. You have a few directions that you can go either with a port which is designed to be drink after a meal and pairs wonderfully with pecans and chocolate or an ice wine which is great with your All-American apple pie or a sweet dessert blend from Alsace or a German region which is beautiful usually with pumpkin pie.
If you do to tend to opt for beer and would prefer that for the evening I recommend going for an ale as opposed to a lager as it’s going to be lighter and not take up as much space in your belly.
With all of this being said you can drink whatever you’d like I often see people making Sangria’s are punches for large groups that have a wine or cider base. Being the purest that I am I tend to not enjoy these mixes as much myself but I can see the draw. Whatever you choose I’m sure it will be great however if you do choose one of my options please let me know below as always I love hearing from you all I love hearing your opinions. I hope you have a fantastic holiday and if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, perhaps you can still use these recommendations for Christmas dinner!
A last word to the wise. If you are entertaining a large group, its important to make sure you have enough wine glasses and the right tools to open your bottle.
These Riedel wine glasses are my personal favorite. They are versatile for all types of wine, and stemless, so they are more difficult to break.
I also always recommend a waiter’s helper double-hinged wine key waiter’s helper hinged wine key. These handy openers have a hinge, that gives you extra leverage for those tricky corks, be they stiff and immovable, or old and soft.
And finally, if you’re pouring a bordeaux or even a nice pinot, I recommend having a wine decanter decanter on hand. Not only does it allow the wine to open up so that the flavors truly sing, but it also makes a table look a special level of elegant.