Last week’s Thirsty Thursday showcased a dynamic duo of the cocktail world to get our readers ready for next week’s big day. And since we’re all about the holidays in the Life Section, this week we’re tackling the wonderful world of wines to create a comprehensive list of perfect wine pairings for Thanksgiving dinner.
Wine pairing is a difficult art to master and can seem daunting, especially for an occasion as important as Thanksgiving. Luckily, Thanksgiving is not a high-stakes holiday in the wine-drinking universe because the food is the undisputed star of the show. Unless you happen to come from a family of world-renowned sommeliers, chances are your relatives will be there for the food, and while a sub-par wine pairing won’t exactly help their holiday, it definitely won’t ruin it.
Bland is better
As I mentioned, food is what matters, so it is important when selecting a type of wine that you never overpower the dishes someone spent hours laboring over. A good Thanksgiving wine must complement the meal in a supporting role while the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy can bask in the spotlight. The problem, however, is there are so many flavors present at the dinner table that it is near impossible to find one wine that compliments every side dish from the corn to the cranberry sauce. My recommendation: avoid wines with lots of flavors. Chardonnays are prone to a strong oaky and buttery flavor, which, while good on its own, will not help you pallet on Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is an American holiday after all, so only American wines can do the trick when paired with Thanksgiving dinner. This is by no means an obnoxiously patriotic plea to “buy American,” but rather a genuine tip since we’re dealing with a food-heavy holiday. The American diet, if known for one thing, is known for its high meat consumption, so while French wines pair well with bread and cheeses and Italian wines go well with pasta and seafood, American wines are for meat-lovers.
Since turkey has such a pronounced flavor on the plate, look for selections from Napa Valley in California or the Finger Lakes in upstate New York for a strong pairing. And to be perfectly honest, as a broke college student on a budget, steering clear of the high-end imported European reserves will do wonders for your wallet so you have more in the bank for holiday shopping.
Watch your content
As much as it pains me to say, look for wines with lower alcohol content percentages. Even though it’s a holiday, it’s a long holiday with lots of courses and lulls in the day as the meal is prepared; therefore, the higher the percentage written on the bottle, the sooner you’ll pass out on the couch. You’re already going to want to curl up for a nice nap after a hefty helping of mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie after the meal, so limiting your wine’s alcohol content allows you and your guests to sip all day long without struggling to keep your eyes open. My recommendation: Look for wines with an alcohol content below 14% for a perfect holiday buzz from the parade to the pie.
Sample a variety
Again, since Thanksgiving is a full-day affair, don’t restrict yourself to one specific grape for the entire evening. Try different bottles as the day goes on, matching each bottle with the course you have arrived at. When guests first arrive, try a sparkling wine (it is a holiday after all; who doesn’t like a few bubbles). A sparkling Riesling is perfect for the initial hugs and hellos from family members as the big game is playing in the living room.
As dinner is served, look for a more full-bodied, dryer choice with my personal favorites being the Pinot Noir and the red Zifandel. Both of which have strong berry flavors that can match the cranberries. They are highly acidic, which works perfectly for a thick meal. As the rich mashed potatoes settle in your stomach, the acid will help break down the carbs and aid digestion. If you’re more of a white wine fan, the white Zifandel is far less acidic than its red counterpart, but its similarly dry nature will hold up well against the weighty meal on your plate.
For dessert, a sweet wine always goes well with a sweet slice of apple pie (or whichever Thanksgiving dessert you prefer). A Moscato, Sauternes or Sherry are usually the best way to end the night, if you can stomach any more calories for the day.
All in all, Thanksgiving is meant to be fun and enjoyable, so find a wine you enjoy and drink up. Finals are just around the corner, so enjoy every last moment of calm before the storm. Cheers and have a happy Thanksgiving!