Choosing a wine for Thanksgiving Day dinner is an interesting challenge. It may not be as difficult as keeping Uncle John from splaying out on the living room couch for an afternoon snorefest, but pairing wine with all the flavors and family gathered around Tom Turkey can be a conundrum. Here’s why.
The historic wine regions of France, Spain and Italy — known for crafting wines to match the regional cuisine — did not have wild turkeys as part of their daily menus. So classic pairings were slow to develop.
Next, the Thanksgiving table features savory dishes prepared using various cooking methods. Think roasted root vegetables, sautéed Brussels sprouts, and sweet potatoes baked into casseroles from recipes passed down for generations. So the various seasonal flavors require wines that cross over pairing guidelines.
The final ingredients of the meal — the guests — may be the most difficult to judge. From Uncle Al (bold reds) to Aunt Alice (White Zinfandel), pleasing all the palates around the table may be harder than preparing a juicy bird.
Start the day by sipping a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from Loire Valley, New Zealand or Napa. The high acidity and aromas of grapefruit, grass and gooseberry are just the thing to get the gastric juices going.
For the table, a youthful Pinot Noir and a dry to off-dry Riesling are better bets than any odds on the football field. Both are high in acidity, making them well suited for cleansing the palate between bites. So place them both directly on the table.
Interested in reds that rock? Try pairing the mellow fruitiness of an Italian Montepulciano from Abruzzo or a spicy Syrah-Grenache blend from the Southern Rhône Valley. The extra burst of flavor and spice can tackle the cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice commonly found in those traditional recipes.
Or pop open a bottle of Beaujolais. Be it Nouveau or Villages level, the aromatic fruit, high acidity and light body make it a perfect quaffing wine for red- and white-wine lovers alike. Plus, Nouveau is released Nov. 15, just in time to lure Thanksgiving shoppers and create a welcome buzz among those in the know.
Giving thanks is good. This year, it can be a bit easier too.
2006 Craggy Range Te Kahu Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough, New Zealand ($24): Lemon yellow in color with medium body. Lots of crisp acidity and grapefruit, lemon, lime and green apple aromas. A perfect starter wine with appetizers.
2004 Perrin & Fils Vinsobres, Les Hauts de Julien, Côtes du Rhône Villages, France ($45): Dark garnet with medium-plus body. Black plum, dark berries with a hint of spice, leather and herbal notes. Pour into a decanter for a beautiful addition to the table.
2004 Louis Jadot Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy, France ($44): Deep ruby with medium-plus body. Lots of red berry; earthy aromas are supported by crisp acidity and firm tannins. Decant before dinner to let the wine breathe a bit.
2005 Casale Vecchio Farnese Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Italy ($8): Ruby red with soft roundness on the palate. Fresh and fruity with aromas of ripe cherry and mocha. This wine is a crowd-pleaser and a great value wine for the table.
2005 Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais-Villages, Burgundy, France ($13): Bright ruby purple with medium-light body. High acidity and moderate alcohol are supported by youthful strawberry and cranberry aromas. A quaffer for the table.
2006 Ferrante Riesling, Golden Bunches, Grand River Valley, Ohio ($16): Pale straw-yellow and medium light in body with ripe citrus, honeysuckle and green apple aromas. Dry in style, the wine will pair with most Thanksgiving Day dishes.