(Photo via Satya Murthy, Flickr)
People will almost certainly be looking to drink something with the medically objectionable quantity of food they intend to ingest this Thanksgiving, and a tall glass of ice water isn’t going to make it any easier to sit next to Uncle Travis.
Here you will find an assortment of suitable varietals for the holiday so you can focus on the important things in life, like not ruining dinner for your dearest loved ones.
The undisputed king of Thanksgiving red is Pinot Noir. Bright, vibrant acidity, light to medium bodied, notes of cherry and cranberry, gentle tannins. The weight of the wine, the aromas, the flavor, all extremely complimentary to a Thanksgiving feast. Turkey, though juicy and downright life-altering in its flavor profile if prepared properly, is still on the light end of the meat spectrum. A big, bold wine like Cabernet Sauvignon would put all of those delicate flavors in a 16 gallon garbage bag and hurl it into the sun. Consider letting Bodan Roan or Line 39 Pinot Noir do your heavy lifting after you’ve already uncorked the good stuff. Oregon’s Evening Land or California’s Sea Smoke, perhaps.
That’s not to say there aren’t other viable options. Burgundy, made from Pinot Noir, is obviously perfect. Beaujolais, actually part of Burgundy and made from the Gamay grape, is another solid option. Gamay boasts low tannins, good acidity, and enough fruit and depth to stand up to a variety of dishes without overpowering them. For other high acid, energetically fruity wines, look to Frappato and Gaglioppo in Italy.
Syrah is a great counter to the occasionally bland character of Thanksgiving birds due to the presence of umami, the savory fifth taste. You’ll probably want to stick to the fruitier options, but in any case, the grape’s aromatic and natural meaty and spicy notes should do the trick.
As a final recommendation, many hundreds of words have been written about the holiday potential of Grenache, due in large part to its ubiquitous nature and ability to reflect a broad spectrum of flavor depending on where it was grown. The Chateau Maris Las Combes is a particularly enticing option from France. In general, expect energetic red fruit and, in the case of Grenache-based blends, a surprising amount of depth brought on by the addition of grapes like Syrah and Mourvèdre. Grenache also features prominently in the world of Rosé, which is a reminder that a dry and fruity pink wine is a pretty good choice, too.
In summation, you’re generally on the right track if the wine you’re pouring features high acid to cleanse the palate between forkfuls, low tannins as to avoid deadening your ability to taste anything at all, and relatively low alcohol to guard against off-flavors.
For your white wine offering, Gewurztraminer is an intensely aromatic, usually off-dry, spicy and floral pick that you shouldn’t pass up. Rhone (France) varietals are exceptional choices as well. Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier possess enough body to compliment turkey and hearty side dishes while blending harmoniously with the floral and acidic elements of cranberry sauces and salads. If you desire something with just a touch of sweetness, Viognier features in one of our all-time favorite blends by Pine Ridge. Dry or semi-dry Riesling and the other varietals of Alsace like Pinot Blanc are also safe bets.
Other top white picks include Grüner Veltliner and Albariño which should also net you some style points for originality. Albariño features a fine assortment of peachy citrus, lemon, and minerality, where Grüner Veltliner leans more floral to compliment its notes of white pepper and natural peachiness. Generally speaking, avoid oak, look for balanced wines with good acidity, and if you’re in a pinch, recommend Champagne; the true can’t-miss option.
And there you have it. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you should be feeling a little more confident with your selections this Thanksgiving. Remember, if all else fails, come see us!