What is a good wine for Thanksgiving? It can be difficult to choose a wine for a meal that has so many different flavors (and not just food flavors but family flavors too!!!) There are three ways food and wines interact:
1. Separate but equal – they both taste good but they don’t make each other taste better.
2. Actively combative – one overpowers the other or changes the flavor in a negative way.
3. Perfect Pairing – each makes the other taste better. (Do any of these sound like your family relationships?)
Because people have such varied tastes in wine and you may have such varied people eating turkey at your house, we have had Thanksgiving dinner twice in the last week to test out different wines. In an attempt to respect personal preferences, we had hoped to find several different styles that were really great. <big sigh> However, if you really want a “perfect pairing” then Pinot Noir is the Queen of Thanksgiving. I mean riding on the head float in the Macy’s parade, tossing gifts, doing the “royal wave”, crowned Queen of Thanksgiving. We tried dry and off dry Chenin Blanc, subtly oaked Chardonnay, off dry Riesling, sparkling Cava rosé, Zinfandel, Gewürztraminer, and Sauvignon Blanc. Most of them fell into the “separate but equal” category. The Sauvignon Blanc was “actively combative”.
Pinot Noir works because it usually has subtle wood treatment, softer tannins, and medium body that match the weight and texture of turkey. Flavors are typically red cherry and woody herbs which work well with the brightness of cranberry sauce and other veggie side dishes. Here are a few Pinot Noir we like – Willamette Valley Vineyards 2011 Whole Cluster Pinot Noir (~$20 range), Panther Creek Cellars (their entire line is good), Elk Cove 2010 (~$25-30) – all from Willamette Valley plus Siduri 2010 (~$25-30) – with grapes sourced from Willamette Valley. See a trend? Cool climate Pinot Noir tastes good with turkey and people in Willamette (rhymes with “dammit”) Valley, Oregon make good cool climate Pinot Noir.
If this does not fit your style or budget, don’t despair. Remember there were many wines on our list that will work. You might also consider a Beaujolais or a Rosé (click here for a rosé with smoky flavors). If beer is an option you wish to offer guests, please check out my friend’s website www.johnthebeersnob.com. Happy Eating, Happy Drinking, Happy Thanksgiving.