Thanksgiving wines to try
At Thanksgiving, however, everything can appear on the table at the same time. So we want a wine that is versatile enough to play well with several dishes. Or wines, stressing the plural; as I’m fond of saying, “Open one of everything.”
This need for versatility favors wines that are light to medium bodied, fruity, and with enough acidity to leave our palates refreshed for the next bite or sip. That last point is especially important given the sheer heft of the typical Thanksgiving plate. Oaky wines, such as many New World chardonnays or cabernet sauvignons, can be impressive, but they are often one-dimensional and are best with a single partner. Cabernet and steak could win the food-wine equivalent of “Dancing With the Stars,” but Thanksgiving is more like a communal square dance.
Which wines are versatile enough? Among whites, look for Riesling, chenin blanc, pinot gris, unoaked or lightly oaked chardonnay and fruity white blends. Suitable reds include pinot noir, cabernet franc and just about any of the Italian red varieties, especially barbera, nebbiolo and sangiovese.
And as with any pairing, don’t think simply of the main protein. Often the seasoning and the sauce are equally important.
With the White House Thanksgiving menu in today’s Food section, an all-U.S. wine list is appropriate. The White House serves only American wines at official functions, and many people favor those wines for an American holiday. We might focus on the thyme that seasons the turkey; here we are lucky, because thyme is a wine-friendly herb. So the challenge is not the turkey but the trimmings. Pinot gris and pinot noir from Oregon would match nicely with the earthiness and nutmeg of the chestnut stuffing. The
Chehalem 2011 Three Vineyard Pinot Gris
($24) has a meditative Zen-like character to it; it is mouth-filling and floral, with flavors of peach, litchi and citrus. It has great bones without tasting structured. So does the
Andrew Rich 2010 Prelude Pinot Noir
($25), also from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Its silky texture envelopes the flavors of food in a blanket of woodsy black fruit.
Riesling from New York’s Finger Lakes would make a terrific partner to a Thanksgiving buffet. We’re lucky to have several Rieslings available in the Washington area. The
Ravines 2011 Dry Riesling
($17) is liquid gossamer with a spritz of lime. For a weightier white, the
Stolpman Vineyards 2010 Golden Point
($23), an only-in-America blend of roussanne, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, is wild and fruity enough to be heard among the cacophony of flavors on the Thanksgiving table.
And don’t forget that bubbles go with anything. The artisan hard ciders I wrote about in this space last month would be an ideal match for Thanksgiving dinner: They are local, seasonal and versatile from your opening toast through dessert. Virginians should look for the heirloom cider varieties from
while Marylanders will enjoy the Spencerville Red sparkling cider from
Great Shoals Winery.
Thanksgiving wines to try
Holiday Guide 2012
Stocking a bar for holiday parties
Spirits: Savory, seasonal cocktails
Wine: Holiday pairing myths
McIntyre blogs at dmwineline.com. Follow him on Twitter: @dmwine.