Come on folks, the menu hasn’t changed in years! Thanksgiving should be about sharing the day with friends and family, and the quintessential All-American comfort foods. The bottom line is that the wine you like is the best wine for your Thanksgiving but, in case you are searching through all the options, I thought this would be a good time break down some of the classic pairings for Thanksgiving.
Chardonnay is the most popular wine in America and there’s no need to avoid it on Thanksgiving, as it’s actually as good a choice as almost any other wine.
If your meal has orchard fruits and a nutty element, apples, pecans, or wild rice, those flavors can serve as a classic bridge, making this complementary pairing an easy winner.
I would opt for a wine with a little oak. The spice and sweetness imparted by the oak will help the wine stand up to the richer dishes at the table.
Pinot Gris, as opposed to Pinot Grigio, generally refers to a wine made in the Alsatian style, as opposed to the Northern Italian; the grape is the same in both.
In Alsace, Pinot Gris tends to be a rich wine with a decidedly spicy character and enough residual sugar to be round and fruity if not downright sweet.
Many producers in the Pacific Northwest produce Pinot Gris in that style, though in general they are fruitier than their Alsatian counterparts. With either example you’ll find a wine with rich fruit and an edge of sweetness that allows the wine to work well with the sweeter elements of the meal.
If you want to find an obviously sweet white, Riesling is your best option. The precise flavors of Riesling can range from very citrusy to peaches and honey.
In Germany, the wines are labeled with a rough guide to sweetness: Trocken is dry, while Halbtrocken is semi-dry. The terms Kabinett and Spätlese generally refer to increasing levels of sweetness, but that’s not always the case since the terms actually refer to sugar levels in harvested grapes, not the finished wines.
Vouvray is produced in a wide range of styles from bone-dry to incredibly sweet, but each type delivers rich, complex fruit flavors with an earthy complexity.
Vouvray is a wine produced from the Chenin Blanc grape in France’s Loire Valley. The wines tend to be remarkable bargains and are ones I always include for Thanksgiving.
Tendre is a style of Vouvray that includes enough sweetness so that it is just barely noticeable, and makes for a perfect match with most Thanksgiving dishes. If you like a bit of extra sweetness look for the demi-secs, and you might even want to try a demi-sec sparkler!
There are many people who feel that sparkling wines can complement any meal and, while they can certainly ensure that you’ll have a festive Thanksgiving, they may not be the ideal match for your meal.
Having said that, I have to admit that the nutty-fruity interplay of sparkling wines can work very well with a traditional Thanksgiving spread particularly if the wine is a touch sweet.
Prosecco from Italy and sparklers labeled extra dry or demi-sec generally are softer-styled sparklers with just enough sweetness to work with Thanksgiving sides.