One of the greatest aspects of the traditional Thanksgiving feast is the near-boundless array of food at the table.
That also makes it perhaps the year’s toughest repast for wine pairing. Or not, if we extend the bounty of the food to the wine options.
As in one wine for each dish. Seriously, few of these shine with both sweet potatoes and green beans, not to mention cranberry sauce and stuffing (although those two taste pretty swell together). Sparkling wine, rosé and pinot noir probably come closest to working with everything, but they also are better suited for certain fare rather than taking on the heavy lifting of being a catchall.
So it makes sense to make them part of the meal and give guests a chance to try different wines with different dishes, or to hoard a bit of one wine for their favorite part of the meal (make mine dressing).
Toward that end, it would be great if each person gets two glasses — they don’t have to be fancy — and maybe a cup for dumping when the juice or the matchup doesn’t work for them.
(FYI, the wines that follow should all be under $25, and often well under. And I’ve tried to recommend lower-alcohol wines, lest Uncle Ralph overserve himself again.)
• Appetizers: For starters, literally and figuratively, a brisk, fresh-tasting sparkling wine is ideal for appetizers (and, frankly, for much of the rest of the meal). And there’s no reason to break the bank on Champagne. Look to Spain’s Penedes region for a Brut Cava from Mercat or Mas Fi or the exquisite Avinyó Petillant.
• Soup: This course usually involves winter squash, which lends itself to either a red or white wine. A Tuscan sangiovese such as Selvapiana Chianti Rufina or Fontaleoni Chianti Colli Senesi provides a tart, hearty counterpoint, while a chenin blanc-viognier blend such as Pine Ridge or Côte de Paradis would match the soup’s lushness.
• Green vegetables: On to the most difficult pairing of the day: a green vegetable, often Brussels sprouts or a green-bean casserole. In either case, look for a lean, racy white, either a grüner veltliner (Pratsch or Hiedler Löss) or an assyrtiko (Sigalas Assyrtiko-Athiri or Greek Wine Cellars). These are bracing and mouthwatering enough to not fight the veggie, but with sufficient fruit to complement the dish — and to positively sing with the casserole’s crispy-onion topping.
• Sweet or mashed potatoes: While this holiday repast usually evokes the nickname Turkey Day, for many of us it could just as easily be dubbed Tater Day. Since it’s almost impossible to choose between sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes, we opt for both.
Sweet potatoes are another dish that can shine with a red or white, so it’s hard to go wrong with either a fruity, robust zinfandel such as Carol Shelton “Wild Thing” or Jeff Runquist “Z” (made by a Minnesota native) or a spicy, zingy dry gewürztraminer such as Hugel or Foris Rogue Valley.
Mashed potatoes are the best excuse to break out a buttery California chardonnay from J. Lohr or Murphy-Goode (also made by a local lad, Dave Ready Jr.). But since gravy often is involved, consider a light, bright Côtes du Rhône from La Vieille Ferme or Les Dauphins.
• Dressing: The latter wines also are nice choices for the dressing and the bird itself, since the gravy is a key component to consider, along with the earthy/herby elements of the stuffing. That, and the varying flavors of these dishes, cries out for a food-friendly, lighter-bodied red such as pinot noir (A to Z or Parducci “Small Lot”) or barbera (Oddero or Marchesi di Barolo “Maraia”).
But it’s also worth considering a sparkling rosé at this juncture, where Pierre Sparr and Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Rosé are exemplary choices and actually would fare well with most of the other fare on the table (yes, even the cranberry sauce).
• Dessert: It’s best to have the wine be at least as sweet as the apple/pecan/pumpkin pie. Sauternes and Ports tend to be spendy; instead, opt for the Airfield Late-Harvest riesling from Washington or the Saracco Moscato d’Asti from Italy.
A sweet ending to a swell feast.
Bill Ward writes at decant-this.com. Follow him on Twitter: @billward4.