Thanksgiving & Wine

Any holiday gathering is the perfect opportunity to dress up your traditional fare with something new and exciting. Choosing wine is no exception. There is so much variety in taste, texture, flavor and oh, those aromas. Can a wine or two carry through appetizer to dessert? The answer is Yes and No!

Let’s consider what meal you are planning and most importantly who is going to be around your holiday table? Being an Italian American my meal goes something like this, traditional bruschetta, stuffed mushrooms, and flavored oils for crusty artisanal bread to be dredged in. Manicotti or lasagna is the likely first course but it could be penne ala vodka or tortellini with sausage and fennel.  Finally we get to the turkey but Uncle Joe likes ham and my Sis only drinks Santa Margarita Pinot grigio! I think we all understand the challenge of a thanksgiving wine pairing. So, I must have the wines my friends and family like but what about me and my adventurous guests?  While I’m sure everyone knows that a crisp Chardonnay and Pinot Noir goes with just about everything that you may have at your Turkey Dinner. Shouldn’t you drink what you like? Here is what I will have available at my celebration.

Sparkling wines bring both elegance and food-pairing versatility to virtually any meal. They shine at the Thanksgiving dinner table because they typically carry crisp acidity while adding a festive flair to the table. Regional sparkling wine brings stimulating conversation. They’re lovely with cheeses, fried or salty fare, popcorn, potato chips and great with turkey and dressing as well.

Riesling can either be bone or off dry, excellent with any dishes that are spicy, salty, or sweet. Whether from Alsace, Germany or the Finger Lakes, it’s a Thanksgiving dinner white wine. Riesling’s flavors of apple, citrus, apricot, honey, and its clarifying acidity give it a significant pairing edge with the likes of sweet potatoes, turkey, and spiced or herb-filled stuffing

Yes I will have Pinot Grigio for Sis and Aunt Vicky!

Zinfandel-A full bodied red, zinfandel is more intense than pinot noir and maintains a balancing effect on many traditional Thanksgiving side dishes. It’s a great wine pick for those looking for a heartier red wine with the capacity to accommodate spice, bitter and sweet flavor profiles. Great with Lasagna. Buy two bottles if you invited Uncle Joe!

Syrah can bring a spicy edge or a meaty character to the table. It increases the complexity while graciously handling the cornucopia of in both those tomato sauce dishes and the flavors in a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The peppery notes of syrah partner well with herb-infused stuffing and dark turkey meat.

When it comes to wine and pie pairings, fortified wines and late-harvest wines are on my table. Both offer the sweetness and viscosity to support the rich flavors and robust spice of pumpkin pie and the caramelized flavors in pecan pie. 

The most important thing is to enjoy your friends and family and drink what you like!

JoAnn DeGaglia CSW, CS, CWJ, is a Certified Adv. Sommelier and an American and Italian Wine Specialist. A busy, Certified Wine Judge , Certified Specialist of Wine and Wine Educator/Sommelier at the  Wine Spectators award winning Glenmere Mansion, Chester N.Y.  

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