With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, now is the time to begin selecting wines to complement the feast. 

Historically, the week before Thanksgiving is a great time to buy wine, as many liquor stores run specials on preferred wines. 

But the big question is… which ones?

Thanksgiving is a meal of many flavors — Aunt Pat’s cranberry mold, Uncle Bob’s smoked sausage stuffing, sister Beth’s garlic mashed potatoes, daughter Elizabeth’s green beans with those onion sticks on top, Gramma’s marshmallow sweet potatoes. 

From appetizers to white and dark turkey meat, herb stuffing, pickled this, deviled that, all the way to pumpkin, sweet potato or pecan pie with ice cream or whipped cream toppings — there is NO single wine that can possibly take you from start to finish! 

It is impossible to find a wine that plays well with all of that, but there are many that play well together. 

Rather than committing to just one red and one white and hope for the best, my suggestion is to serve a selection. 

Open the bottles, line them up on the counter and encourage guests to self-serve. I typically write a small note card (of course I would) for each bottle explaining what I think it pairs best with, then let guests decide what suits them.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts.

 

Do serve … 

• A mulled or spice wine would get the festivities off to a nice start.

• Sparkling wines, an increasingly popular pairing partner and not just for the holidays. Sparkling wines brings elegance to food pairing to virtually any meal, but with Thanksgiving, these wines really shine. Serve after dinner as well to aide in digestion. 

• Pinot noir or pinot noir rosé, the earthy undertones and often mushroom-inspired flavors surround the fruity notes of the wine and tend to show well with the traditional flavors of turkey and stuffing. My preferred choice.

• Syrah can bring a spicy edge or a meaty character to the table often increasing the complexity, while easily handling the cornucopia of flavors in a traditional Thanksgiving meal. 

The peppery notes of Syrah will partner well with the herb stuffing and both the white and dark turkey meat.

• Zinfandel has the intensity of a pinot noir, but a balance of many traditional Thanksgiving side dishes. This would be a great pick for those looking for a hearty red wine to accommodate spice flavor profiles.

• Sauvignon blanc (Sancerre or Fume Blanc), known for its citrus-based flavors that can be surrounded by herb or mineral undertones, making it a prime candidate for turkey and mashed potatoes.

• Riesling, the flavors of apple, apricot, honey and its acidity give it an edge with the likes of sweet potatoes, turkey and spice or herb stuffing.

• Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Torrentes, Albarino offer the perfect opportunity to shake up the Thanksgiving table and take your guests on a little wine adventure, while still maintaining perfect pairing power.

For dessert, when it comes to wine and pie pairings, fortified wines immediately come to mind. 

• Port is a pretty straightforward matchup and goes way beyond just pumpkin and pecan pie. 

• Pedro Ximénez or a cream sherry — If you are a sherry fan, like me, then you will want to try it with pumpkin or pecan pie, because of its nutty, sweet spice-filled character.

• Late harvest wines such as Eiswein and Sauternes, the rich concentrated flavors of honey pair well to a variety of desserts. Fortified wines and late harvest wines offer the right amount of sweetness to support the rich flavors and robust spice of the pumpkin pie as well as the caramel flavors in a pecan pie. 

One bottle for every five people — unless they are Irish or from my family, then in that case all bets are off. 

 

Don’t serve…

• Big overly-tannic reds, even coffee, will overpower most Thanksgiving fare. 

• Overly oaked wines like Chardonnay. Bourbon barrel-aged wines can change the taste of everything. 

• Lighter whites like pinot gris can be to wimpy. 

• Sweet tea and sodas are too sweet, mixed drinks are too strong, Sangrias are too fruity. Most beers can be too hoppy. However, a pale or brown ale will pair nicely.

Have a great holiday.

Cheers,

Chris

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