Where on earth did October go? It feels like everything since Daylight Savings Time has been a blur and now Thanksgiving is literally right around the corner. While this is often the stepchild of the holiday season I honestly love Thanksgiving. It’s an opportunity for everyone to get together and try their best to churn out a fantastic dish (or in my case, five) and share in the love of their family. However, for others, this can be a horrific parade of unruly relatives and the wine you drink is the only thing helping you keep it together and not throw a little cranberry sauce across the table.
A common misconception is that since at Thanksgiving you traditionally eat turkey you should pair your wines accordingly. However, turkey is a fairly bland protein so unless you’re enjoying an exceptionally flavorful recipe you’re best off pairing this meal with wines that match the sweet, buttery and often decadent side dishes on the dinner table. Here’s a list of my favorite wine varietals to get you through the holiday and I highly recommend drinking a variety of different wines throughout the meal. If nothing else, for your own survival.
Champagne and Sparkling Wines
I honestly can’t think of a time when champagne isn’t appropriate. Bubbles, floral bouquets and light acidity will help you enjoy baked brie, stuffed mushrooms or that beautiful cheese board. Also, you can play a little game with your cousin where you clink glasses every time your drunk uncle asks, “Did I ever tell you the one…?” Yes, Uncle Charlie. Everyone knows that story. Everyone. (clink)
Chardonnay or Chablis
For the die-hard white wine drinkers, you can never go wrong with a classic Chardonnay on Thanksgiving. My recommendation would be to go for a crisp Chardonnay with a lighter finish instead of the traditional California oak and butter we’re all familiar with. You want something that will stand up well with cranberry dressing, green bean casserole and that cousin who can’t leave the political commentary or conspiracy theories for another day. I can neither agree nor deny that this wine makes them less obnoxious but it’s always worth a try.
Riesling or Gewurztraminer
Both Riesling and her French cousin from Alsace (although their 23 and Me profile tells a deeper story), Gewurztraminer, are grapes cultivated to be paired with heavy and fatty fare. The other beautiful part about these varietals is that their flavor profile can dabble on the sweet side so if you have that aunt who still misses white zinfandel you might be able to please her with one of these. But don’t be fooled, the nose is floral with notes of green apple and a honeysuckle like sweetness with no lack of complexity and crispness in this bottle.
Let’s be honest, is there ever a bad time for a glass of Rosé? This is an excellent accompaniment to that Honey Baked Ham you’re all eyeballing since you know your cousin is going to over-cook that turkey again. Also, let’s be honest, we live in Miami and if you’re eating dinner outside (like most of us) you need to serve something that pairs well with lechon and beads of sweat. We are so attractive tonight.
This is the traditional wine of choice in my family and in my opinion, the most “Thanksgiving” wine out there! Why you might ask? This is the first wine to be bottled after the harvest in the fall. When you drink a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau you’re enjoying something that was still on the vine just a few months ago. It’s meant to be enjoyed quickly and lightly chilled and has a very light body with a bright, fruity finish. Basically, this baby pairs well with just about anything and it’s easy drinkability provides for a very tough exterior when fending off that one grand aunt who can’t understand why you’re not thinner/prettier/more successful/married/sweeter like your cousin Nicky. Why? Why can’t you be like Nicky???
The beautiful thing about Pinot Noir is it’s the delicate red wine that can truly get you through all the holidays. Pinot Noir’s lighter tannins and notes of red fruit go well with everything from a fried turkey and candied yams to Lechon and yucca frita. This is also an excellent wine to help you tune out passive-aggressive commentary on how over-salted/under-salted/over-cooked/under-cooked your turkey is. Make your own damn turkey next time people. I’m just going to drink my wine.
It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without dessert and uncomfortable silences so let’s keep the drinking going! Sauternes is a beautiful wine made from grapes that have fallen victim to noble rot which gives their juice a more concentrated, honey-like quality. Made from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes this wine tastes of apricots, honey, and peaches without being overly sweet. Pumpkin and Pecan Pies have now met their match!
If you’ve made it through the entire meal without having to break up a fight or ground your children then the holiday is now a success! Just remember to look around the table and give thanks for the people you’re sharing the holiday with. Though they may drive you a bit mad chances are they love you with all of their deranged hearts. Happy Thanksgiving!