There is no holiday that causes more wine anxiety than Thanksgiving. Every year, friends and family bombard me with calls and texts, seeking tips on which wines should accompany the ultimate American feast.
Allow me to break this news to you: No single wine is going to pair with everything on the table. After all, the meal consists of a hodge podge of flavors and textures like creamy mashed potatoes, tart cranberry sauce, marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes—and don’t forget about the ever-polarizing green bean casserole.
I’ve found that the best approach to selecting wines for Thanksgiving is to pick an assortment and allow your guests to decide what they prefer. Remember that the meal is centered on a bird, not a roast of meat. So lighter reds and full-bodied whites are going to be a better match with the meal.
This year, forget about ideal matches and simply buy a mixed case of some of the wines below.
Always begin with bubbles. Opt for a bottle or two of Franciacorta, Italy’s answer to Champagne, which is made in the same way with a secondary fermentation in the bottle, yet is usually half the price. At its best, Franciacorta can be creamy and fragrant, with aromas of fresh apples and wildflowers. It’s an excellent pairing with appetizers and cuts through the richness of the gravy on your plate.
2. Oregon Pinot Gris
You probably already know this grape by its Italian name of pinot grigio. It’s known as pinot gris in other regions, like in Oregon, where it produces full-bodied wines full of ripe flavors of apple and pear, with vibrant acidity that keeps it food-friendly.
3. Grüner Veltliner from Austria
I always bring a bottle of grüner veltliner, Austria’s signature white wine, to Thanksgiving. With notes of green apple, citrus and white pepper, it pairs especially well with vegetables—such as the green bean casserole or roasted Brussels sprouts.
4. Finger Lakes Riesling
If you’re keen on keeping your selections American, the Finger Lakes region of New York is a great source for riesling. No, not all riesling is sweet. In fact, there are some excellent dry rieslings coming out of the Finger Lakes, made from producers like Hermann J. Wiemer and Dr. Konstantin Frank, that would be terrific on the Thanksgiving table.
5. Chinon from the Loire Valley
I believe that every Thanksgiving dinner should have a light red wine like Chinon, made with cabernet franc grapes in France’s Loire Valley. These wines are the very definition of gulpable, full of juicy berry flavors and not heavily oaked. I like to think of Chinon at the Thanksgiving table as the wine version of cranberry sauce: it’s tart and bright, with acidity to cut through even the richest of flavors.
6. Cru Beaujolais
Every third Thursday in November, the newest vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau is released, flooding retail shelves in wine stores all over the country. For years, it’s been marketed as a great option for Thanksgiving, but I prefer to drink Beaujolais’ more serious wines—Cru Beaujolais—wines made from the gamay grape that are fresh and thirst quenching, yet also playful, complex, and invigorating, and worthy of attention. Look for bottles from one of the region’s 10 crus, or designated vineyard areas: Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié and Saint-Amour. Each cru is known for its own unique character: Fleurie is floral and delicate; Juliénas is rich and spicy; Morgon is big and earthy; Moulin-à-Vent is the most structured and age-worthy. But all are enjoyable with your turkey dinner.
7. Chambourcin from New Jersey
You didn’t think I’d forget about New Jersey wines, did you? Chambourcin is a French-American hybrid grape that grows especially well here in the Garden State, usually with notes of dark fruits and black pepper. Find a bottle of William Heritage Winery’s chambourcin to pair with your meal. For after-dinner sipping, Unionville Vineyards makes an excellent port-style wine from chambourcin grapes.Click here to leave a comment