By Peg San Felippo
City & Shore Magazine
Ahh, Thanksgiving – when friends and loved ones share a day filled with food and perhaps a little socially distanced football. While you’ve probably already set the dinner menu in stone this year, I’m here with some help selecting the wines:
For buffet or family-style dinners, choose wines that are versatile and crowd pleasing.
Look for whites with refreshing, well-balanced acidity and reds that have subtle tannins.
Avoid oaky and big tannic wines, which can overpower most traditional Thanksgiving dishes. (So it’s best to steer clear of new world Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons).
Look for the following varietals:
Sparkling wine and Champagne: Nothing says “welcome” like a glass of bubbles. Not only is it an elegant way to kick-off your Thanksgiving festivities but, because of its bright acidity, brut (dry) style sparkling wines pair perfectly with a turkey dinner.
Gewürztraminer: Most people don’t think too much about this wine – possibly because they haven’t tried it. Gewürztraminers are very aromatic with a spicy character that’s a good match with gravy, turkey and goose.
Riesling: Whether bone- or off-dry (slightly sweet), Rieslings are great food wines and complement spicy and salty dishes. Not only does it pair well with herb stuffing and roasted turkey it’s also terrific with a Cajun deep-fried bird.
Sauvignon Blanc: Always a popular choice with or without food, Sauvignon Blanc is a solid pick because of its crisp citrus character and herbaceous notes. Not only is it a good match for the turkey and mashed potatoes it also works well with green beans and brussels sprouts.
Rosé: You may only think of Rosé in the summer but Thanksgiving actually is the best time to serve this chilled pink wine: It’s easy drinking and makes a good starter wine. Being chilled makes it refreshing and the acidity works with all the Thanksgiving staples. Its red fruit gives it slight complexity without be overpowering, and it’s a good go-between wine for both white and red wine drinkers. Staying with dry/off-dry Rosés accentuates the dishes.
Beaujolais Nouveau: Produced from Gamay grapes, Beaujolais Nouveau is always released the third week in November, just in time for Thanksgiving. While that may be a coincidence, how well it pairs with pretty much every dish that day is not. This wine is bottled just 6-8 weeks after harvest, which influences it light, bright red-fruit qualities and its high acid and moderate tannins can take you from appetizers through dinner. Don’t forget to serve it slightly chilled.
Pinot Noir: Considered the traditional red wine for Thanksgiving, Pinot Noir is always a good pick because it’s lighter bodied and easy drinking. Oregon Pinots go especially well with turkey and stuffing because of their subdued earthy characters.
Cabernet Franc: Originating from the Loire and Bordeaux regions of France, Cabernet Franc is best known as a blending grape combined with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to make Bordeaux style wines. Not overly tannic, it’s full-bodied with peppery accents and compliments both the turkey and the candied yams.
Here are three basic tips to make your Thanksgiving wine buying easy.
Stock up. You’d never consider running out of turkey at Thanksgiving, the same should hold true for the wines you’ll be serving. Don’t forget this is typically a lengthy gathering and you should count on your wine drinking guests to consume 3-5 glasses over the course of the event. It’s probably best to plan on a bottle of wine per person.
Lower is better. This is not a gathering to be serving high-alcohol wines, for a couple reasons. First, go back and review “Stock up.” High alcohol over a long meal can fatigue your palate and cover the food flavors making them taste flabby and bland. Choosing wines with 14.5 percent ABV or less is a good goal.
Stay simple. This is not an event to open a multitude of wines. It’s perfectly fine to serve one white and one red. If you want a little more variety maybe add another, such as a sparkling wine. However, after the initial glass of wine, it’s pretty common that people will gravitate to a specific wine for the rest of the event. While you want your guests to enjoy the wine, the food and camaraderie are still the focal point of the day.
Still not sure what to buy? Here are some solid choices:
Schramsberg Brut Rosé 2017, St. Helena, $39.
Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut NV, Champagne, $48.
Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer 2018, Alsace, $28.
Trimbach Riesling 2016, Germany, $17.
Honig Sauvignon Blanc 2018, Napa, $17.
Fleur de Mer Rosé 2019, Côtes de Provence, $19.
Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais Nouveau 2020, $17.
Cristom Mt. Jefferson Pinot Noir 2017, Willamette Valley, $35.
Charles Joguet Cuvée Terroir Chinon Cabernet Franc 2018, Loire Valley, $27.
*All wines are available locally at retail outlets.
Peg San Felippo is a certified sommelier who has served as a judge on the annual American Fine Wine Competition, South Florida’s homegrown wine event; and THE Rosé Competition.