Complements To The Bird: Tips on what wines to drink and when on Thanksgiving Day

Juicy, tender, white meat turkey; tangy, acidic cranberry fruit explosion; warm, cornbread stuffing bathed in salty giblet gravy. Mmmm, all these flavors equal sheer, home-cooked Thanksgiving bliss, but the same comforting flavors wage war with wine. What to drink when so many flavors are mingling on your tongue? Well, anything you want if you plan it right.During the holidays, we all seek respite from hectic business life, and part of relaxing should be drinking whatever you like. In my opinion, you can fit wine into pretty much any Thanksgiving dinner, whether it’s full Southern fare with black-eyed peas and okra, or a Northern hubbard squash and bread-stuffing feast. But there are subtle ways to maximize your wine enjoyment with any meal.

If you’re a white wine drinker, stay away from drinking a sip after certain acidic dishes like cranberries since the two acid bases will cause major pucker action. Your best bet with white wines like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio (Gris) is to savor them before dinner. Whites you might want to explore with your Thanksgiving menu are Viognier, Vouvray (Chenin Blanc) or a dry Riesling. These wines tend to be on the softer, fruitier side and mesh better with holiday food. These wines will even do justice to a salty, smoky ham.

Reds create a motley mix with the lighter, more delicate flavors of Thanksgiving. Often, reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Zinfandel can be big, tannic and egoistically demand all the attention at the meal. But there are some calm, fruit-driven reds that will dance the tango with your bird. Think of Beaujolais, Pinot Noir and Chianti (Sangiovese) as reds in touch with their “feminine” side, willing to share the plate with the food. These guys won’t overwhelm the tastes of green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and yams.

One other wine you might want to consider is sparkling wine, the quintessential food-friendly libation. It also makes the meal more festive.

For those collectors out there, Thanksgiving is a fantastic opportunity to open up “the cellar,” so to speak; those dust-collecting bottles you brought back from Napa or France are crying out to be consumed. Share them with friends and family — that’s what the holidays are for, right?

So pop a top, chill or air your favorite wine and enjoy the company of friends, family and the comfort foods we all love and crave this time of year. Your turkey awaits. Happy Thanksgiving.


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