If you’re anything like me, Thanksgiving can seem like the worst best holiday. Of course, there are so many great things – being surrounded by so many loved ones and tables full of wonderful food (and of course the wine to go with it!) But the holiday, especially if you’re playing host, can also be full of stress.
I may not be able to make sure your turkey comes out right, but I can at least take one stressor off your list: choosing wine.
Choosing wine for a big meal like this is harder than you might imagine. With a big group, everyone will have different tastes. Your Aunt Sue doesn’t like to drink anything other than moscato and your cousin Randy loves a merlot but hates all white wine. What’s a host to do? Well, first, you need to accept that you can’t please everyone. The most you can do it to find a wine (or two, I usually recommend a red and a white) that will be three things: tasty, affordable, and will work well with your food.
So, with those three things in mind, what should you actually get?
Well, first, let’s think about how much to get because that will often impact the wine you choose. I think it’s helpful to remember that there are 4 to 5 glasses in each standard sized bottle of wine (10 glasses if you’re getting magnums). From there, think about how much you anticipate your crowd drinking. Some people will have just one glass, and of course, others will have a bottle all to themselves (I am this person in my family and I will not apologize for it.).
So, now that we know how much we’re shopping for, what are we actually going to get? Well, as always, you have lots of options.
Chardonnay can seem like the safe choice and that’s because it is. A good chardonnay, especially one with a little bit oak to it will match savory dishes that contain nuts, wild rice or apples. Chardonnay’s natural fruit flavors and spiced vanilla aroma will also go hand in hand with turkey. Alternately, if you’re not a fan of buttery chardonnays, an unoaked one will still fit the bill with its apple and lemon flavors and full-bodied profile.
Is there a wine more traditionally linked to Thanksgiving than Beaujolais? I don’t think so. The link stated with a marketing gimmick that created “Beaujolais Day” as the third Thursday in November. This is the day that wine shops release the newest vintage of Beaujolais, just weeks after bottling. This weeks-old wine is made from 100% gamay, is called Beaujolais Nouveau, and its quality can vary widely each vintage. It’s not the only wine that carries the Beaujolais name, however. There are many producers in the area whose wines are all of excellent quality and would be the perfect, fruity addition to any Thanksgiving meal.
Pinot noir is, for very good reason, one of the world’s most famous varieties. Its flavors range from cherry and chocolate to warm earth and mushroom. For Thanksgiving, it can work with both light and dark meat turkey as well as cream based dishes like green bean casserole. And, of course, it’s the perfect compliment to cranberry sauce!
For those looking for something a little less traditional, a dry riesling or gewürztraminer might just do the trick. These two grapes are widely planted in the mountains of France and Germany and both come in dry and sweet styles. The flavors of these wines can range from the sweet apple and peach of riesling to the spicy floral notes of gewürztraminer. The high acidity of these grapes will help cut through the richness of traditional holiday foods.
What better way to show your thanks than with a toast of Champagne? But in actuality, Champagne would be a wonderful pairing throughout the entire meal. It’s bold enough to stand up to stalwart dishes like turkey and dressing, and, if your meal is skewing fruit heavy with cranberry sauce and the like, you’d find no better match than with a wonderful rosé Champagne. If true Champagne is out of your budget, no worries! There are plenty of option from all around the world that will work just as well.