Thanksgiving is in just a few days and if you’re like me, it snuck up on you too. Luckily, choosing what wine you drink will be far easier than planning your menu. By following a few simple rules, you can have all your palate-pleasing vinos picked out before T-day, so you only have to worry about whipping up some delicious sides and roasting that big ol’ bird.
A Thanksgiving meal, with a whopping estimated 3,000 calories (a person!), is not going to be one of those slow and steady dinners where you’ll be contemplating the nuance of the food and wine pairings. Nope, not in the least. This gut-buster of a meal will absolutely destroy your palate, and you won’t even notice, what with the kids’ table causing a ruckus and the in-laws all up in your turkey-focused grill, all the while your room-temperature sides start to congeal… At some point, you’re just gonna start drinking to get through it all.
If you are, in fact, worried about what will pair perfectly with your meal, rest easy with the knowledge that the best rule you can follow is to pair for the occasion, not the dishes. Pairing that Fleurie with wild rice stuffing is the furthest thing from your mind. Overall, you’re better off with lighter, joyous wines that won’t bring you down as if you were hit with an elephant tranquilizer. Below, check out some red, white and bubbly wines that will pair well with whatever you’ve got weighing down your table.
Red wines: Just for tonight, forget those meaty, tannic reds like Cabs and Brunellos. Repeat after me: “juicy and light.” Here are some to try:
Domaine de la Madone Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau: A no-brainer, Beaujolais Nouveau is a classic treat for harvest-type meals. Made from gamay, this fruity, easy-going wine hints at cherries and cranberries. With plenty of acidity on the palate, it’ll cut through the fattiest flavors on your table while complementing its seasonal flavors.
Familie Bauer Zweigelt 2011: Austria’s leading red grape, Zweigelt (a cross of blaufrankisch and St. Laurent) is a lithe, lively red. With zippy, energetic acidity, this easy-sipping bottle has hints of black pepper and berries, making it the perfect pair for second helpings of your aunt’s candied yams and greens like Brussels sprouts.
Valli Unite “Gaitu” Barbera: Eyeing the ubiquitous green bean casserole? Opt for this biodynamic barbera from Piedmont. Incredibly fresh with the subtle earthiness of mushrooms, it is a sublime match to the salty cream of mushroom soup.
White wines: The same rules apply for whites as they do for reds. Whites have the added benefit of minerality, which can cleanse your palate between each bite. Here are some to try:
Shinn Estate Vineyards “Coelescence” 2011: Who says all domestic wines need to come from Napa? Proving that great, terroir-driven wine can come from (of all places) Long Island, Shinn Estate’s Coelescence (a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurtraminer) is chock-a-block full of zesty, juicy melon notes. Try this medium-bodied wine with any squash dishes on the table.
Fuso Verdicchio: Produced by the Belisario cooperative in the little known DOC Matelica in Italy’s Le Marche region, Fuso’s young white explodes with freshness. Ignore the screw-top: what you’re looking for in this sustainably-produced wine is the vibrant Granny Smith apple that dances on the tongue.
Les Cigales de Montirius Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2010: A sharp citrus hit of lime on the nose belies how beautifully gentle this blend — White Grenache, Clairette, and Viognier — is on the palate. Honeyed and floral with a refreshing minerality, pair this biodynamic beauty with the belle of the ball: your turkey.
Sparkling and dessert wines
The first thing anyone should ever know about sparkling wines and Champagnes is that these are the ultimate food-wines. The effervescence of bubblies literally lift the flavors on the plate, regardless of their provenance, while invigorating your taste buds to sense all aspects of the food. With bubbles and food, you can’t go wrong.
As for dessert wines, don’t think you have to drink an entire glass. These wines are meant to wind down your meal.
Christian Etiennes Champagne Brut: If you were to have only one wine to carry you through your meal (as if), seek out this inexpensive grower Champagne. With more character (at half the price) than Veuve Cliquot and Moet, its effervescence is dry yet filled with creamy pear notes.
Alvear Fino NV Pedro Ximenez: When you get to the dessert course (you’d be a fool to miss out on Grandma’s pumpkin pie), pair it with this lighter style Pedro Ximenez dessert wine. Chilled, it has a delightful softness to match the pie, but is light on the sweetness.
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