Did you know that Thanksgiving is the one day all year when wine is most likely to be served with your meal? Choosing the right wines to complement your meal and please your guests can be something of a challenge.
Good news: turkey goes well with many wine choices. White meat is light enough to go well with whites, and the dark meat can stand up well to bold reds. But wine pairings may be complicated by side dishes, the flavors used in your stuffing and the other choices that make Thanksgiving traditions unique.
So instead of recommending just a few wine picks, here are 6 strategies that work for holiday wine pairings.
- GO WITH BUBBLES
Champagne or Sparkling wine goes beautifully with everything, from turkey to cranberry sauce to stuffing. Brut is the driest of sparkling wines, with virtually no sweetness. Rosé-style sparkling wines are a little sweeter. Prosecco is a budget-friendly option and somewhat sweeter than other sparkling wines.
Whichever one you choose, it’s easy to serve sparkling wine throughout dinner. Be sure to have plenty on hand and serve thoroughly chilled.
- TRY A DIFFERENT WINE WITH EACH COURSE
If you’re hosting for 6 guests or more, you could offer a unique wine for each course. You might begin with a toast of sparkling wine and then move to traditional wines. Typically, the progression of wines goes from white to red, from lighter-bodied to full-bodied, from dry to sweet – possibly ending with a good dessert wine.
- OFFER BOTH RED AND WHITE
A fine strategy for Thanksgiving wine is to select just one very good white and a very good red, giving guests their choice.
For reds, look for soft tannins that will blend with your dishes. Consider Pinot Noir, Syrah, Zinfandel, Merlot or Beaujolais Nouveaux. For a splurge, Beaujolais Grand Cru will delight most red wine lovers without overpowering lighter turkey flavors.
For a white wine, consider Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, an unoaked or low-oak Chardonnay, or Viognier – all excellent choices for guests who like traditional white wines. Non-traditional whites that will work include Albariño and Grüner Veltliner.
- KNOW YOUR GUESTS
It’s totally fine to choose a wine just because you know your guests already love it. New wine drinkers, for instance, often prefer sweeter wines. While that may not be your first choice, it is always okay to give people what they enjoy, unless this really clashes with your meal. If that’s the situation, try selecting wines in a similar style that complement the food you’re making. This becomes a good opportunity to introduce guests to something different but close to what they’ve always liked – which might become a new favorite.
- ADD A SWEET NOTE AT THE END
A glass of sweet Moscato, Port or Sherry goes well with almost any Thanksgiving dessert, from pumpkin pie to fresh berries. Wines labeled “late harvest” will be sweet as well. More expensive sweet wine choices include Sauternes or Hungarian Tokai wines. The idea is to offer something as sweet or sweeter than the dessert itself. Anything less sweet will seem bitter by comparison. The one exception is sparkling wine or champagne, which pairs perfectly with chocolate and most other sweet desserts.
- LET GUESTS MAKE THE CALL
This strategy comes from syndicated wine columnist Jerry Mead. Give every guest at least 2 wine glasses, even if you have to buy new stemware. Then put out at least 3 different wine choices in varying styles and colors, letting everyone try the wines with different foods and flavors. The first bottle emptied is declared the best wine of the night.
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