Choosing Thanksgiving Wine: Simple Rules to Relieve the Stress of Selecting a Holiday Wine

Many Thanksgiving hosts and hostesses fret as much about the wine for the big feast as they do about lumpy mashed potatoes and the cooking time for the turkey. With all the little things to be concerned about when loving families gather around the table, wine selection should not be one of them. By following some simple rules, choosing a wine can be a stress-free event during the holiday.

Buy American

What better gesture for a uniquely American holiday than to serve a wine made from grapes grown on American soil. According to Wine Business Monthly, there is now at least one commercial winery in all fifty states. So, while California wines are always a good choice, consumers should not be hesitant to try a local varietal. And that’s the beauty of American wines: the grape variety, or technically the “varietal,” is indicated right on the bottle. Forget about deciphering those complex labels from France or Germany.

Choose a Variety of Wines

Many hold fast to the notion that one type of wine will work with the entire meal. Given the bounty of foods, textures, and sauces, however, a single wine will rarely suffice. It’s too much to ask one wine to pair well with such flavor contrasts as white and dark meat, herbed stuffing, tart cranberry sauce, yams with marshmallows, and green beans covered with mushroom soup. Furthermore, odds are that no one wine will appeal to everyone’s palate. After all, pairing wine with food is ultimately a matter of personal preference; perhaps Uncle Fred likes a ligher red with his savory stuffing while cousin Kate insists on a fruity white. Variety is the answer.

Select Reds and Whites to Cover All the Bases

In general, the traditional Thanksgiving feast calls for light to medium bodied reds and whites rather than heavier, more complex varietals. For the whites, consider a zesty Sauvignon Blanc, an aromatic Gewurztraminer, or a crisp Riesling. Among the reds, a fruity Pinot Noir is a classic accompaniment to Thanksgiving dinner. This varietal is also a good introduction to red wine for white wine lovers who are a bit adventurous. Grenache is also a tasty option, while Syrah is worth considering for those who like a richer, fuller flavor. How much of the above to mix and match? Consider that one standard bottle typically yields five glasses.

Let the Guests Decide What They Like

There is no need to loose sleep over the wines that were eventually chosen for the big meal, and no need to worry whether Aunt Martha prefers red or white. Thanksgiving dinner guests are much more likely to complain about the dry turkey or too-thin gravy than the wine. Here’s the key: just place the bottles on the table and let guests decide for themselves what wine goes best with the meal overall, or which ones work best with each serving.

But for those too preoccupied with food and family to follow the above rules, there are two words to remember: sparkling wine. If all else fails, America’s version of Champagne sets a festive mood for the meal, and its high acidity makes it a food-friendly alternative all the way through to dessert. Select bottles with “brut” on the label (the driest) for the main meal, and “extra dry” (sweeter) for grandma’s pumpkin pie.

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