Every year there are countless recommendations given out as to what wine you should be pairing with your Thanksgiving meal. These recommendations are always made with the utmost confidence that this exact wine will be the perfect match to whatever meal you have and no other wine would do. Everyone eats the exact same thing at Thanksgiving, right? The turkey, the gravy, the cranberry sauce, the stuffing; yours will taste the same as your neighbors, right? Except the pumpkin pie! Your mother makes the best pumpkin pie and everyone else’s tastes exactly the same, which is to say…not as good. You know the scenario:
You write down the the recommendations you found in the magazine, on-line, on the radio or on TV, while wondering if you’re spelling it right and whether that word is the producer, the type of wine or where it’s from. Such joy you have knowing you will be bringing the perfect wines for Thanksgiving! The hunt is on! But once you get to the liquor store, the hunt proves fruitless. The store doesn’t carry those wines (assuming you wrote down the correct thing to begin with) because you live in such a small town that they don’t carry every wine in existence. Fooled again, world of wine! You got me! What to do? Panic? You start reaching for the boxed wine….
The idea that there are one or two wines that are a “superior” match to everyone’s Thanksgiving dinner is quite frankly ridiculous. The problem with specific wine recommendations is that they only work for specific meals. The specific interactions you get between the wine and food with the environment you’re in comprise the experience. Thus, the whole point of my musings on this web log. You have to keep in mind though that a good experience is comprised of a range of factors. Can you have a good day when it’s raining? Yes. Can you have a good day when it’s 67 degrees instead of 65? Yes. Can you have a great Thanksgiving meal with a wide range of wines? Yes.
So instead of worrying yourself over whether or not you’ll be able to find the specific wines that were recommended to you, let’s give you a variety of options, shall we? Just remember to look for the bottles that have a specific region listed on them. First, let’s think of the flavor components of traditional Thanksgiving meals: savory, herbs, spices of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, creamy, buttery, jams, tart cranberries, the gamey-ness of the foul. Now what wines can work well with that?
- Pinot Grigio
- or some Bubbly!
- First pickings from the newly released Beaujolais Nouveaus (Gamay)
- Grenache or Grenache/Syrah blends
- Pinot Noir
- Cabernet Franc
With the reds, the idea is not to get too far into the heavy body realm or too far into the big tannin realm. The amounts of vinegar and salt in most Thanksgiving meals can typically match the bitterness in the tannins of the above varietals and blends. The idea with the reds is to match up the red-fruit-jammy and herbaceous flavors while keeping an eye on the tannins. For some, lots of tannins aren’t a big deal and they kind of like it. But if you’re having a large number of people over, there are high chances that not everyone is like this. So if you do want to try a more tannic red, just make sure those who don’t enjoy that sort of thing have a chance to get more vinegar, citric acid or salt in their mouths before they take a quaff. If your fruits are swaying more to the darker end (blackberries, plums) then you can switch over to the medium-bodied dark fruit wines like Merlot, Syrah, Monastrell, etc.
Just remember, if you really like a couple wines, chances are that those can work for the “perfect” Thanksgiving meal. You might have to make some small adjustments to your menu, but everything should work out fine. Those of us who enjoy wine have an expectation bar at some level and as long as it meets that or surpasses it, we’re good. We don’t fret over prefect pairings, especially if we aren’t doing the cooking or bringing the wine. If you do have someone who you know has the highest expectation bar, go ahead and tell them to bring the wine.