Fall is here, and winter and the holidays are quickly approaching. Thanksgiving will be here before we know it – which begs the question: Which wines shall we drink?
The much-anticipated release of Beaujolais Nouveau is always on the third Thursday of November, the week before Thanksgiving. Not only is Nouveau a fun and celebratory wine of the 2018 vintage, it also pairs wonderfully with the traditional turkey and ham feast. An added bonus is that the light and fresh nature of these wines works in contrast with the heavy richness of turkey, gravy and mashers. Meanwhile, the vibrant and fruity acidity of Nouveau cuts the saltiness of ham.
Other wines that will work similarly with holiday fare are pinot noir, Chianti and grignolino (a light Italian red). Not everyone likes these lighter and more acidic wines, and that’s perfectly OK and manageable. If your guests are fans of bigger, bolder wines, it’s easy to find ways to integrate them into a traditional holiday feast. For instance, a pairing with a big red wines can be easily balanced by adding more gravy to the side dishes. The fat helps smooth out and mitigate the wine’s mouth-drying tannins.
Many people don’t like red wine with their turkey and ham. Fortunately, it isn’t difficult to sate their thirst with a white wine. Ideally, viognier works best. The soft and acidic nature of the viognier grape makes for wines that stylistically fit between a buttery, oaky chardonnay and the crisp nature of sauvignon blancs or pinot grigios. Furthermore, the apricot and spice notes in viognier make for a perfect pairing.
Sure, those big chardonnays and crisp light sauvignon blancs will work too. But what about those wine adventurists looking for something a little different? Wines from Alsace, France, work well because of their richer and more acidic profiles. Dry riesling, pinot gris and muscat are also good choices. Italian wine lovers will find that arneis from Piedmont will also be delightful – not too heavy nor too acidic. Dry rosé is always a fun and versatile option that works with virtually all meals, Thanksgiving included.
Now, on to dessert. Dessert wines are meant to go with dessert food. Moreover, the sweet nature of dessert wines magically cancels out the sweet flavor the dessert has itself. It’s an odd phenomena, but it’s real. Typically, tawny ports work wonders with pecan and pumpkin pie, but one should also consider the unique Vin Santo’s of Italy. The nutty, lightly sweet and oxidative qualities of Vin Santo will sublimely pair with the aforementioned pies.
The one thing to remember about Thanksgiving dinner is that it’s there to remind us to be thankful for what we have. So whether or not you choose the ideal wine doesn’t really matter. Of all meals, this one is virtually impossible to mess up with the wrong pairing. Happy Thanksgiving!
Alan Cuenca is an accredited oenophile and owner of Put a Cork in It, a Durango wine store. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.