There are a dozen reasons to avoid obsession and angst pairing wines with your Thanksgiving feast. The problem begins with a cornucopia of flavors and tastes from sweet to bitter to savory, spicy, and salty that roll from the holiday kitchen. While thousands of different wines will be appropriate for millions of tables and gatherings, Thanksgiving wine pairing flames are fanned by the conflicting recommendations wine and food media cough up every year. What follows is a deconstructed Thanksgiving wine guide including my own simple context for thinking about Thanksgiving wine pairing, a bunch of recent recommendations from other wine knowing sources, and what our family will drink this Thanksgiving.
Context for Thanksgiving wine pairing
Drink whatever you want at a budget level that is comfortable for your family. If that permission is not liberating enough and you insist on giving it more thought, ask your wine seller for white and red wines with good acidity levels to keep you salivating through the heavy eating, low alcohols so Aunt Jane and and Cousin John aren’t napping in their cranberry sauce by 3pm, something bubbly with verve to make things feel like a celebration of family and good living, a semi dry white wine with a little residual sugar for standing up to the spicy and sweet dishes, and one very special selection you want to treat yourself and family to just because great wine is best shared with people you enjoy being with. How many wines? At least one red and one white. If you want more then add a semi dry/moderately sweet (demi sec) white, then a sparkler, and lastly the special bottle if you and your guests would appreciate it. Remember this, write it down, or print it out and just give it to a wine seller you trust.
Thanksgiving wine pairing and the media
In case you remain unconvinced there is no single “correct approach” to Thanksgiving wine pairing, here is a deconstructed guide to Thanksgiving tips from the food and wine media that will make you believe.
- Not even Eric Asimov, Florence Fabricant, Julia Moskin, nor Pete Wells can completely agree on a small group of under $25 Thanksgiving wine candidates for mixing and not matching in the New York Times.
- If you really want to confuse yourself then Serious Eats will tell you what the chefs are recommending, another 14 great white thanksgiving wines, 15 delicious red wines, and if none of them work for you then five essential Thanksgiving wine tips.
- Epicurious will ease any pairing jitters by demonstrating that the nation’s top sommeliers all have different Thanksgiving pairing recommendations.
- Bon Appétit will take you in in opposing directions with their Barbera recommendation and then three ciders.
- If you really want to play the game that you don’t need to know too much about the wine for it to work, 90+ Cellars has a Thanksgiving pack of wines that meets the general holiday pairing context where you will never know who made the delicious wines you are drinking.
- If for some reason your family will not serve a turkey or any other main course (what, really?) and you want to pair a different wine with each and every side dish, The Wine Enthusiast has the survival guide for you.
- Meg at Maker’s Table will take you on an intellectual run through the wide playing field of possible Thanksgiving wine pairings.
- The SF Examiner offers some insights into what the Bay Area wine pros are thinking.
- The BrooklynGuy is recommending, well, BrooklynGuy wines.
- Chambers Street Wines will tell you to drink the wines you ought to be drinking all year long with food.
- Real Simple says forget it all, just buy cheap (affordable) wine.
- The Passionate Foodie points you to Sherry and Sake, what else?
- Apartment Therapy knows you don’t have a deep cellar in your rental pad, so why not drink Sangria for Thanksgiving?
- Great Northwest Wine says keep it domestic and keep it Northwest, of course!
- And if for some strange reason Silver Oak is still your domestic wine Mecca, they are willing to be your Thanksgiving wine opinion leader too.
Wines my family will drink this Thanksgiving
2012 Txomin Etxaniz Txakoli Rosé Getariako $20: A refreshing spritzy low alcohol rosé from Northern Spain for thirsty pre meal moments.
2011 Domaine Marcel Lapierre Morgon Cuvée Lapierre MMXI in magnum $85: Larger 1.5 litre formats are perfect for Thanksgiving meal celebrations and this Gamay won our blind tasting of yet one more great recent Beaujolais vintage. Cru Beaujolais is a style of red wine that works great with most of the meal, offers manageable alcohol and juicy acidity. The Cuvée Marcel Lapierre is a wine to completely relish any time of the year.
2005 Domaine Huet Clos du Bourg Vouvray Demi-Sec $40: One of my favorite producers of Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley. Was recently blown over by the progress the 2005 has made with some bottle age. The current vintages are widely available for less than $40 and would work just fine. Enough residual sugar on attack and acidity through finish to work inside the Thanksgiving meal, no matter how spicy or sweet any one course is.
1998 Leonetti Merlot $80: What is a Thanksgiving dinner without at least one American wine? This Merlot is just about perfect and rose to the top of a mini Leonetti Merlot vertical tasting I organized a couple years back. This iconic Washington State producer did something extremely special in this vintage. It’s my really special wine for the day.
Out of confusion emerges liberation. Just drink what you like and Happy Thanksgiving to all.