A perfectly paired wine will have dinner guests talking long after the dinner itself. Wine creates memories, it brings family and friends together, and it is the ultimate condiment to enhance our food. Wine evokes all five of our senses, and when paired with the proper food choices, leaves a lasting impression on both our palates and our minds.
Thanksgiving is filled with tradition, both cultural and family. Warm and inviting side dishes, casseroles, and homemade pies are just a few of the food traditions we honor. The wine options can often get lost in that tradition, and we might tend to grab random bottles of Chardonnay and Merlot just to have fairly acceptable whites and reds available. Imagine stepping outside that traditional box for just a moment and providing your guests with wine selections that will dazzle their palates and bring out the absolute best flavors and textures of every dish on that table.
Typically speaking, any given Thanksgiving offers a myriad of flavors, from cranberry to sweet potato, pumpkin, and squash, to green beans and Brussels sprouts, corn dressing and sausage stuffing. The possibilities are endless. So how does one offer a great wine selection that will pair well with each of these foods? That is indeed the challenge for many, but it doesn’t have to be.
It is my belief every celebration should begin with bubbly of some sort, but that does not limit you to Champagne. Prosecco is Italy’s go-to bubbly, and offers a lighter, fresher, fruitier flavor than many Champagnes. Spain brings us Cava, which can be a tad drier than Prosecco, but not as complex as Champagne.
When selecting white wines, I suggest considering wines with an aromatic quality and a medium to heavy body, such as Vourvray (the Chenin Blanc grape from the Loire Valley of France) and Condrieu (the Viognier grape from the Northern Rhone of France). Both regions produce wines of varying degrees of dryness/sweetness, so whichever your palate desires, you can thoroughly enjoy. You can also go the non-aromatic variety route with a Pinot Gris from either Oregon or Alsace, France. Each will offer a bit more weight and creaminess than a Pinot Grigio (same grape, different name) from Italy, but without the aromatics of the aforementioned grapes.
When choosing your red wines, you want to make sure they are not too overpowering for the dishes they will be served with so you create a nice balance of both flavor and weight. I suggest varieties with lighter tannins and more pronounced fruit, such as Pinot Noir in the form of red Burgundy, or Gamay in the form of Cru Beaujolais. You can find delicious Pinot Noirs outside of Burgundy, France as well. Russian River Valley in California is producing stellar Pinot Noirs that will leave lasting impressions.
Wine can enhance a dinner so much, it is truly worth a little extra effort to make a warm tradition such as Thanksgiving an exceptional experience.