Thanksgiving Wines: Bold And Delicious Pairings
Thanksgiving dinner is my favorite wine decision of the year. There are so many angles from which to approach the pairing, and so many different flavors and consistencies on the table at the same time. Most fun to me is balancing the emotional and historical part of the meal with what the food calls for. It is so much more about Thanksgiving as an event than it is about the wine and food paring. The stakes aren’t so high – nobody is there just for the wine, and so Thanksgiving can be an opportunity to push the envelope a bit, so long as there are sufficient bottles.
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Thanksgiving dinner is my favorite wine decision of the year.
There are so many angles from which to approach the pairing, and so many different flavors and consistencies on the table at the same time. Most fun to me is balancing the emotional and historical part of the meal with what the food calls for.
It is so much more about Thanksgiving as an event than it is about the wine and food paring. The stakes aren’t so high – nobody is there just for the wine, and so Thanksgiving can be an opportunity to push the envelope a bit, so long as there are sufficient bottles.
Set The Table
JS Metcalf Photos
I have two very separate paths of thought when it comes to what wine to drink at Thanksgiving.
I can’t help but care about pairing based on the food on the table and there are a lot of components to consider in a Thanksgiving spread. Turkey is a very lean, delicate protein and is easily overwhelmed. Cranberry sauce is very acidic and has a lot of sugar that easily overpowers more subtle wines. Green vegetables are often complicated to pair with. Yams are sweet.
There is no slam-dunk pairing, which is why I love the possibilities so much. But pairing based on the history of the holiday often leads me to wines that I might not otherwise consider.
This Year’s Suggestions
And so, after a fun few weeks of tasting, here are my suggestions this year:
The 2013 Mauro Molino Barbera d’Alba is a juicy crowd-pleaser made with a traditional Italian sensibility. It is tart enough to compliment the cranberry sauce, but won’t overpower the turkey and will be well under $20 a bottle. I love it for its value and is accessibility.
Fitting The Bill With Cava
My family will also be indulging in sparkling wine at the Thanksgiving this year.
Partially because I always want sparkling wine, but also because it fits the bill for such a complicated pairing. I find the most intriguing value in sparkling wine to be in vintage Cava. The Juve y Camps 2010 Vintage Brut is a wonderfully affordable cava with a toasty, creamy profile and a fantastically dry finish. It is fuller in body than most sparkling wine and thus can handle almost anything on the Thanksgiving table.
The Romance Of Domestic Wines
There is a bit of romance to drinking domestic wines on Thanksgiving. I am especially drawn to east coast wines.
Call me crazy, but they somehow feel more autumnal and/or colonial. Conveniently for me living in New York City, one of the most exciting wines that I have had all year happens to be from the Finger Lakes region of New York.
The 2012 Hermann J. Wiemer Magdalena Vineyard Cabernet Franc is a bottle of beauty. It is fantastically concentrated and flavorful, with a resinous note that makes for a perfect nippy-weather wine. It is the clearest example I’ve found that world-class wine can be, and is made in New York State. Weimer also makes a less expensive, easier to find Cabernet Franc without the vineyard designate which is wonderful as well.
The Ryan Williams Estate
Not Far from the Magdalena Vineyard sits The Ryan William Estate Vineyard. The Ryan Williams Estate produces a weighty, New York expression of Gruner Veltliner. The savory notes of Gruner highlight whatever herbs and spices might be used to season a turkey or stuffing. Most importantly to me, The Ryan Williams Estate Gruner Veltliner somehow communicates the brisk temperatures in which it is harvested, perfect for the season in my opinion.
Outside The Box
Finally, I’d like to offer some ideas that are even a little bit farther outside the box.
Nantucket Vineyards (2015 NY International Wine Competition Massachusetts Winery of the Year) produces a really wonderful, Cranberry infused Pinot Gris that is very enjoyable and obviously on script for Thanksgiving.
I also find that mead is a great pairing with the meal, especially if there are lots of marshmallows in the yams. My favorite mead that I have run into recently is the Black Willow Winery Odin’s Nectar (2015 NYIWC Mead Winery of the year), which is slightly drier than most mead, and thus drinks a little bit more like a wine.
There Is No Wrong Decision
Whatever you decide to imbibe on Thanksgiving, know that there is no wrong decision. I have so much fun thinking about, and writing this article each year because, in the end, the people and the meal are the focus. Nevertheless, they are both so much more enjoyable with a great bottle of wine.