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The Wines of Thanksgiving

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Red wine, white wine, sparkling wine, cider: it’s the time of year to count our blessings. Yes, the holidays. As Thanksgiving rears its head, relatives are extended invitations, decorations are brought up from the basement, and turkeys everywhere join the witness protection program. We spend weeks planning what we’re going to eat and, more importantly, what we’re going to drink. 

In a perfect wine world, you might be able to plan your Thanksgiving completely around your wine list. But, this holiday makes that hard. Plainly put, there are certain dishes that just have to make an appearance at the Thanksgiving table. No matter how hard we try, some things (ahem, cranberry sauce) wont’ go away.

This leads to one solution: we plan our wine menu around our Thanksgiving menu.

Now, as a general rule, wine should be paired with the strongest flavor of any given meal. But, once again, Thanksgiving makes that hard. Every family possesses their own customs. Some stick to turkey, some prefer ham, some throw in primed rib, and others, in the true tradition of the very first Thanksgiving, simply place a call to the local Pizza Hut.

For this reason, the rules of wine have to be fairly general and flexible, improving their chances at making the masses thankful.

Pour some sugar on you: The perfect way to kick off a Thanksgiving is with an Aperitif wine, a wine that is sweet and rich, such as Sherry. Not only does an Aperitif wine add a sense of festivity to the air, but it also helps to stimulate your appetite. With an Aperitif in hand, this may finally be the year you achieve your goal of eating your body weight in mashed potatoes.

Drink in the Beaujolais Nouveau: The holidays may be about all sorts of obvious things, such as a tree in the grand hotel, one in the park as well, but they are also about subtle things, such as a bottle of wine. Beaujolais Nouveau, a wine annually released from France on the third Thursday in November, is light, simple, festive and fun. Not meant for aging, this wine is to be consumed promptly. Seeing how it’s a favorite among wine lovers and those not yet sold on the goodness of the grape, that shouldn’t be a problem. 

Stick with certain pairings: When it comes to wine, you should never be embarrassed to ask for help: some people simply know it more than others and taking their suggestions is a good way to get started towards a great finish. Having said that, here is a simple list of our pairings: Pinot Gris from Alsace, Chinon (a red wine made from Cabernet Franc), and a Rose of your choosing all go really well with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and vegetable dishes. Rose also goes particularly well with ham, also known as the turkey’s favorite dish.

Natalie MacLean, a Canadian writer and wine connoisseur, also suggests pairing turkey with Riesling and Pinot Grigio (for whites) and Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, and Zinfandel (for reds).

Depending on your individual preference, and what’s being served, you may have to do a little sampling to decide the one you like best. With a buffet of food set out in front of you, don’t be afraid to bring in a buffet of wine. Rotate, experiment, and have fun: Plymouth Rock and roll.  

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About Jenn Jordan

  • http://www.nataliemaclean.com Natalie MacLean

    Great advice Jennifer! Thanks for including my picks too. I’ve got more matches in my interactive tool for everything from turducken to pecan pie. Have a great holiday!

    Cheers,
    Natalie