This is my 14th year offering wine advice for your Thanksgiving feast. Last year, when we were all self-isolating and large family gatherings were out of the question, I suggested opening one of those bottles you might be saving for a special occasion. Enjoy wine’s ability to “banish care” and focus your thoughts — for at least a few moments — on what you are thankful for. Your wine needn’t be expensive to be special, I wrote. It’s special because of the memories and significance you bring to it, not what you spend on it.
If you’re planning a low-key, intimate Thanksgiving again this year, that advice still holds.
If, on the other hand, you are gearing up for a more traditional meal of turkey with all the trimmings and a bevy of friends and relatives, you have much more important things to worry about than wine — including the cost of all that food.
Looking back on my earlier columns about wine and Thanksgiving, I was consistent at least in aiming puns at fellow wine writers and their “hob-gobble-goblin” fear of wine pairings at Thanksgiving. “You can hear their hands wringing louder than church bells,” I wrote in my first Thanksgiving column in 2008. I’ve engaged in Thanksgiving mythbusting. And I often advised having a “special” bottle for that boorish relative who guzzles your wine and talks politics. (This year, perhaps his topic will be Aaron Rodgers’s vaccination status.) Once I even named my straw man Uncle Leroy.
(For the record, I don’t have a relative named Leroy. That name was assigned to me 30-some years ago when I answered a job ad from a “government agency” offering “foreign travel and adventure,” and a massive package of forms appeared at my apartment door asking me to detail every thought that had ever crossed my mind. And to answer as Leroy. I never pursued that opportunity, and today I’m a cubicle denizen for a different government agency that allows me to live under my own name. We all make life choices.)
And our choices of wine for Thanksgiving should not be stressful. You could emphasize food-friendly grapes — pinot noir, barbera, riesling — that typically have palate-refreshing acidity and moderate alcohol levels. Thanksgiving is a harvest celebration, so why not drink the wine of the recent harvest — beaujolais nouveau, which conveniently goes on sale each year on the Thursday before Thanksgiving. You could choose a wine from the country of your heritage, or an American bottle made by a winemaker who shares your heritage. Or go all-American for the all-American holiday. There’s always the “drink local” option, including local nouveaus. Loew Vineyards in Maryland, which I profiled this year, makes nouveau. And, of course, bubbles go with everything — foods, as well as moods, at the table.
My mantra for Thanksgiving is “open one of everything,” because with the plethora of flavors on the Thanksgiving table, no single wine will match everything on the menu, but any wine is likely to play well with something.
The meal is not about the wine, so the wine needn’t be expensive. If you’re hosting a large party, you could ask each guest or couple to contribute a bottle, but set a price limit and a theme. Specify white, red, rosé or sparkling so you’ll be sure to have a good variety. This can help reduce the expense of hosting a large gathering while getting your guests engaged in the meal planning. And you’re likely to have enough wine left over to enjoy after cleaning up.
Relax. You’ve got this.
More from Wine archives: