Did You Know?
When wine is paired well with food, an altogether different flavor is brought forth, which wouldn't be experienced if the two were consumed separately.
After investing hours of elbow grease, you've finally managed to spread the lavish Thanksgiving dinner table with all sorts of delicacies from stuffed turkey to the buttery side dishes, tart sauces, etc. But you're not done yet; you still have to open the wine. With so many flavors blending together at the Thanksgiving dinner table, finding the ideal wine for this lavish meal can seem challenging.
You need a wine that will not overshadow the array of flavorful dishes, and at the same time, doesn't get overshadowed by the meal itself. Having said this, there isn't exactly an ideal wine you can place on the dinner table. Since the flavors are diverse, you need versatile wines; different kinds to complement different flavors and satisfy different palates. Serving a little of different wines can help accentuate the flavors of the meal.
Best Wines for Giving Thanks
Owing to the diverse flavors of the Thanksgiving meal, you can pretty much serve any wine you like. However, presenting an assortment of wines helps eliminate the stress about pleasing different palates at this festive gathering.
Before the Meal: Sparkling Wines
To start off the celebrations, it's best to pull out a bottle of sparkling wine. Since a typical Thanksgiving meal is served all at once with no starters, a flute of bubbly sparkling wine makes a great aperitif. It awakens the taste buds and prepares people for the upcoming meal.
Effervescent wines are perfect because their copious amount of bubbles are sure to spearhead the festive mood for the evening. Then again, since French champagnes are too expensive, the more affordable Spanish sparkling wine, i.e., Cava becomes our Thanksgiving friend. Brut Cavas are dry and not too sweet, making them perfect to start the meal.
This Italian dry sparkling wine also makes a great aperitif. A Brut Prosecco is fresh, fruity, yet not too sweet for the palate. Moreover, its creamy flavor and good acidity make it an ideal way to start this occasion of giving thanks. This fizzy wine can also be combined with a peach puree to make Bellini, a classic cocktail that can be served as an aperitif.
Additional Options: Moscato d'Asti, American sparkling wines, etc., also make good aperitifs.
During the Meal: Reds or Whites
You can either serve red wine, white wine, or both during the meal. However, since Thanksgiving meals are heavy, the wines chosen must be light to medium-bodied.
Must-have Red Wines
High tannic wines like Cabernet Sauvignon are not suitable for Thanksgiving dinners, simply because these are heavy-bodied and pair well with darker meat. When we're looking at red wines, it's better to choose light- to medium-bodied wines. We need something not so sweet and not too tannic; moreover, it should also have low alcoholic content to keep people level-headed through the evening.
Pinot Noir is a traditional favorite at this holiday meal. While some wine aficionados find this medium-bodied wine getting overshadowed by the turkey, others find it pairing well with a classic roast turkey. Nevertheless, Pinot Noir finds its way to many Thanksgiving meals. Its vibrant acidity accentuates the juiciness of the turkey, and its soft tannin content helps it to complement the side dishes well.
This low tannic, fruity wine pairs well with roasted turkey, herbs, and other flavors pertaining to the elaborate meal. Moreover, its fruity notes complement simpler foods like ham well, while its robustness balances the diverse range of flavors entering your palate. Just make sure you chill this wine in the refrigerator for half an hour before serving.
Additional Options: Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, etc., are some other red wines that complement a Thanksgiving meal very well.
Must-have White Wines
While most folks prefer to have a Chardonnay at Thanksgiving, it's not the ideal choice, simply because this festive meal involves a mix of sweet and savory flavors, thus, calling for a white wine that's more on the fruity side, rather than a distracting oaky flavor. Take a look at some white wines that complement this holiday meal well.
Dry rieslings are crispy and refreshing food-friendly wines, whose fruity and not-too-alcoholic characteristics are perfect for lavish meals. Their palate-cleansing capacity helps complement turkey, buttery sweet potatoes, and even the savory, herb-filled stuffing served at Thanksgiving. Moreover, these whites also have the ability to hide the dryness of the turkey!
Dry or Off-dry Gewürztraminer
This aromatic, slightly spicy and fruity wine pairs well with a variety of dishes at the dinner table. Its intense bouquet of flavors makes it a versatile wine that complements both the turkey and the side dishes passed around the table. The floral aroma and vibrant acidity are sure to be appreciated by your extended family.
Additional Options: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Pinot Grigio, etc., are some lovely whites you can serve at the Thanksgiving table.
After the Meal: Dessert Wines
Wine is an integral part of Thanksgiving, so how can we leave it out during dessert? Dessert wines need to be sweeter or should have the same level of sweetness as compared to the dessert being served. If it's not as sweet, the dessert will overshadow it, causing it to taste bland. Since pumpkin pecan and apple pies are mostly served as dessert, we need wines that will complement them.
Although quite underappreciated, this fortified wine makes a lovely dessert wine. In fact, nothing beats Sherry when it comes to complementing the flavors of a pumpkin pie. Its nuttiness and spiciness pair well with the traditional pumpkin pie notes. So, this Thanksgiving, give this Spanish wine a try.
Another perfect match for Thanksgiving desserts is Madeira. Its earthiness not only accentuates the flavors of the brown spices used in a pumpkin pie, but it also cuts through its richness, with its vibrant acidity. Moreover, its notes of candied orange peel, raisins, figs, and sweet spices go well with almost any dessert.
Additional Options: Port, Muscat, Pedro Ximénez, Sauternes, Asti Spumante, etc., are also some great dessert wines that can be served this Thanksgiving.
Having said this, it's also important to keep the family's favorites in mind, and ensure that they are served during dinner. So, whether you choose white or red, or an assortment, it all boils down to personal preference. Moreover, you will also have to keep your budget in mind. Don't let your choice of Thanksgiving wines burn a hole in your pocket. So, keeping all this in mind, take your pick!