With Thanksgiving a short three weeks away, many of us still have plans to make. This Thanksgiving Wine Guide will take the pressure off of choosing the right wines for the big meal, giving you more time for fun!
Whether you are the host or guest, choosing the right wine to serve or gift for the holidays can be stressful. Should I serve what I always drink? How will I know what goes with the food? With all these different flavors how can it go with all of the food? If I bring wine with me, is it a gift or do they have to drink it with the meal? How do I know what to get? What if…?
So many questions!!
The good news: I have some answers.
When it comes to Thanksgiving wines, you are not limited to just a red or a white. I’ve asked many friends over the past few weeks, not all of them wine drinkers, what type of wine they would serve on Thanksgiving Day. A few of my favorite non-answers included: “The stuff in the box.” “Whatever you bring with you.” and “Forget wine, I’ll be drinking bourbon.” While funny responses, these answers all came from people who are interested in having wine at their Thanksgiving table. However, they don’t drink it all the time and they don’t know where to start. I hope that these pointers will help lead all of you in the right direction.
For Thanksgiving the main dish of the day on most tables in the USA is a turkey. Juicy, tender, white and dark meat, that has been painstakingly brined, roasted, and carved. Serve it up with buttery mashed potatoes and rich pan gravy, tart cranberry sauce, salty green beans, spiced sweet potatoes, smokey Brussels sprouts, herbed stuffing, and yeasty rolls. Depending on where you live, each of these dishes takes on their own regional flavor or gets traded out for something completely different. All in all, you have lots of flavors competing and that’s doesn’t even include the pie! Choosing a wine that doesn’t overpower or underwhelm all these delicious treats doesn’t have to be difficult. You can easily choose a red, white, rose, or even bubbles!
When looking for a red wine to go with your turkey dinner, I would avoid anything with a high tannins. Tannins in wine come mainly from the skin of the grape and are the element that makes your mouth feel dry. With all the spices in the meal, a tannic wine – like a Cabernet, Tempranillo, or Merlot – would tend to fight with the flavors, making the food taste tart and almost bitter. I find that a zingy red, with a fruity nose and a mid to high acid level plays best at the Thanksgiving table. Wines to try:
Gamay – a traditional Beaujolais grape. Very fruity, with lots of cherry notes. Try it slightly chilled for best flavor.
Pinot Noir – This is the grape that defines Burgundian wines. It’s lighter in body but lots of flavor ranging from fruity to earthy.
Malbec – Argentinian Malbec has a great flavor profile including cocoa, coffee, black fruits and plums. Most have a medium level of tannis, but this is balanced out by it’s medium acidity.
Zinfandel – A jammy red wine with hints of blackberry and plums. While not native to California, most of it is grown here. It’s my personal choice for this holiday. I have a bottle of Rock Wall Wine Company’s Hendry Zinfandel waiting in my cellar. For a slightly less expensive option, I also love their Julies Zinfandel.
White Wine should not be overlooked for this holiday. While highly oaked Chardonnays may not be ideal, there are many refreshing whites that will pair perfectly.
Riesling: A dry Riesling will have a lighter, more delicate fruity flavor, with a floral nose. They can be lighter in alcohol content than most other suggestions here.
Savignon Blanc: A higher acidity and bright floral notes make this an excellent match for rich foods.
Chenin Blanc: Go for a dry style from California. Soft flavors of melon, apricot, and peaches with a heavier mouth feel makes this a great option for fans of Chardonnay.
Viognier: This one has the lowest acidity of the group, but with a floral nose and heavier mouth feel it’s a great option.
For an option that is a bit heavier than a white, but lighter than a red look no further than Rose. Rose can be made from a combination of grapes. The color comes from a shortened exposure to the skin of the red grapes. The winemaker will let the skins sit just long enough to leach out a bit of color. This skin exposure also increases the mouth feel of the wine. Look for a dry rose made from a blend of grapes.
Champagne, Prosecco, and other sparkling wines can go a long way when paired with food. Unfortunately, they are often over looked unless it’s New Year’s Eve. There are many rules and regulations that denote which bottles can be called what wine based up on the methods used, the grapes included, the standards that are held, and where it is produced. Bubbles can be used as a greeting wine, matched with appetizers, paired with the main meal, or saved for dessert.
Blanc de Blanc: It means white from white and is made strictly with Chardonnay grape. The french versions can be very expensive, but there are many good varieties that come from Californina. Including Domain Chandon’s Reserve Blanc de Blanc.
Brut Rose: Made from Pinot Noir grapes, the result is a dry pink wine that can be paired with everything your Thanksgiving dinner has to offer.
Cava: A Spanish sparkling wine made in the same method as French Champagne. Must less expensive, but still very delicious.
Prosecco: Is an Italian sparkling wine that tends to lean towards the sweeter side. It is not made in the traditional method, which means larger bubbles and a bit more fizz. It works well with appetizers and is a great fit for those that shy away from dry wines.
Wine Gifting: To Pour or Not to Pour?
If a guest shows up with a bottle that was unsolicited and you have already (and very carefully) selected the wines for the meal, you are under no obligation to pour their wine with the main meal. At your discretion you can serve it prior to the meal, as an after dinner beverage, or keep it as a gift. If you did ask your guest to bring a bottle it should be served during the event, however it is up to you as to when it gets served.
As a guest, if your host is a wine drinker a bottle of wine is a completely appropriate host/hostess gift to bring on Thanksgiving. If you bring it without being asked and give it to the host, it is a gift. Leave it up to the host to decide to pour it or save it for later. If you are bringing wine as a gift, it does not have to go with the meal at all. Choose a wine you enjoy, in a comfortable price range, and don’t forget to tell the host why you like it.
How Much Do I Need?
For a dinner party you should plan on 1/2 a bottle of wine per person. This will take into account the non-drinkers, the over drinkers, and the off chance that one of your bottles will have a failed cork. If you are planning a champagne toast, allow for one bottle to serve 4 – 5 people with a full glass, depending upon the size of your glasses. It’s always better to have extra left over, than to run out in the middle of the party.
A note on decanting:
A beautiful decanter like the one at the left can do more than look pretty on your table top. Most still wines can benefit from being decanted, but with today’s desire for drink now wines it is usually not necessary. Younger wines do benefit more than older wines, but putting your still wine in the decanter will not ruin it. While reds do benefit more, I’ve had some chardonnay that has greatly improved with decanting. When I am serving multiple wines with multiple courses, I tend to pour the first in the glass and leave the second in the decanter to be poured at the table. NEVER DECANT SPARKLING WINES. (Yep, that one needed all caps.)
I hope I have answered all of your questions and you feel like you can shop that wine store with confidence and ease. If there is anything that may have been missed, feel free to ask in the comments below. Don’t forget to Pin this post for future reference!