A typical Thanksgiving feast is a cornucopia of flavors, from roast turkey as the centerpiece to a supporting cast of sides; mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, yams, stuffing with herbs, chestnuts, or oysters, and tart cranberry sauce, to mention a few. You’ll want to save that phenomenal wine, big, bold, oaky, and sassy for another occasion where it can shine on its own. With such a rich repast, it’s best to pair wines that are well balanced, have good acidity, and mild tannins, that will enhance the food and support the multitude of flavors on the table.
The safest bets for Thanksgiving wine bliss are Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, and Viognier for white wine lovers, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Zinfandel for red wine lovers. And the biggest crowd pleaser of them all is sparkling wine, Brut or a slightly sweeter Extra Dry, which can be drunk throughout the meal, from appetizer to main event to dessert.
Riesling can be bone dry or sweet, and pairs well with spicy, salty, or sweet dishes. Its high acidity and flavors of apple, pear, apricot, and honey is a welcome companion to the turkey, stuffing, and sweet potatoes. Sauvignon Blanc, with its citrus, herbal, and mineral flavors, and high acidity, accentuates the herbal flavors in stuffing or turkey. Gewurztraminer is an aromatic wine, with lychee, peach, and citrus flavors, and has a spicy edge that pairs perfectly with turkey and gravy. Viognier is also aromatic, floral with a stone fruit and honey profile, fleshy body, lower acidity but bigger alcohol, its roundness is good with sweet potatoes and turkey.
Pinot Noir’s cherry, mushroom, and earthy notes bridge the turkey, stuffing, and gravy and its tame tannins is a seamless match with the sides. Zinfandel is fuller bodied and more intense than Pinot Noir, and the jammy fruit notes of cherry, plum, boysenberry, cranberry and blueberry, accented by black pepper, licorice notes, and smoky notes, stands up well to the spicy and sweet flavors of the feast. Syrah also brings spice to the table, with more complexity (think olive, bacon, licorice, herbs, tobacco) and peppery notes, it is a good match for the turkey, stuffing, and gravy laced mashed potatoes.
Beaujolais Nouveau, released annually on the third Thursday of November, is a light, fruity red wine made from Gamay, and goes well with the turkey and all the fixings. Budget friendly, it’s an easy wine that can be drunk from start to finish, with minimal tannins and good strawberry and raspberry fruit, kirsch and bubblegum flavors, with a banana nose.
All of these wines will benefit from the proper serving temperature. White wines should be chilled but brought out at least 15 minutes before serving, red wines should be chilled for at least 15 minutes before, to allow the true aromas and flavors to reveal themselves.
Toast the bounty of the season with any of these Thanksgiving food friendly wines, and count your blessings in the company of family and friends.