This year’s gatherings for Thanksgiving might be smaller in 2020, but having great food and wine that day should remain the same and they also should be extra delicious this year!
We’ve included the usual suspects for a traditional Thanksgiving feast, and wine pairings. But we have to consider the sides also since Thanksgiving is not just about the meat, the sides are just as important if not more!
As we all settle in during the big day in the afternoon, a snack and an aperitif is in order to kick-start the day. Sparkling wine gets us in the mood and is always a festive way to start. There are options for sparkling wine which makes it fun also. Prosecco is always a classic choice, but you can also try a Crémant. It’s a Champagne-style sparkling on a budget. This sparkling wine is typically made from the same grapes used to make Champagne (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier) but can be made anywhere in France. For those who want to feel a bit more festive, add a bit of Cassis or Chambord to the sparkling and voilá! You’ve just made yourself a Kir Royale. Another liqueur that makes sparkling wine fun is St. Germain, an elderflower liqueur with lemon and floral notes. Keep any (or all!) bottles of Cassis, Chambord or St. Germain handy so guests have the option to add a little sweetness to their bubbles. Something to nosh on during this time would be a delicious bread bowl with a spinach dip appetizer. Bubbles love a creamy texture, and this pairing goes hand in hand.
It’s time to sit down for dinner, what other wines are we drinking on this festive day?! A light red can work with the entire meal, from the oven-roasted turkey to the classic stuffing and down to the sweet potatoes or yams. The Gamay grape from the Beaujolais region in France is always a great choice. This is a hugely popular choice for turkey and sides as well as a solid Pinot Noir. Choose one with a bit more fruit to match the sweetness of the sweet potatoes or the tartness of the cranberry sauce. A medium to full-bodied Pinot Noir with good acidity and with a moderate hand in oak will do the trick. So many great regions to choose from, like Oregon’s Willamettte Valley, or California’s Santa Barbara County, or South Africa’s Walker Bay. A Garnacha from Spain should also be on your spectrum also when choosing a universal red for this feast. It can be a great option and can easily be added to your repertoire when deciding on a versatile and food-friendly red wine.
As for me, I like to have a glass of white AND a glass of red wine at the dinner setting. One of my favorite things to do is to play with food and wine pairings. Anyone else? A nice Alsatian Riesling is an excellent choice. These wines have ripe, stony fruit flavors and the texture of these wines work really well with the richer dishes at the table, from the turkey to the cheesy green bean casserole with crunchy onions (don’t forget the crunch onions!).
Another white wine option would be a Chenin Blanc. You can choose from those coming from France or South Africa. A dry Anjou blanc or a semi-dry Vouvray can be a fun side-by-side comparison. This could be a really nice dinner conversation if you want to geek out. At this time when we are all staying in and cooking at home more than ever, we can explore and be a bit more adventurous. Don’t forget South Africa when considering a Chenin Blanc. Even though France is the motherland for this grape, South Africa can claim to have the most plantings of Chenin Blanc than any other wine region in the world. Definitely something to look into.
I can also see an oaked Bordeaux Blanc holding its own with some of the richer foods at the table. Bordeaux Blanc should get some more love when we all think of a great white wine for Thanksgiving. There are a few different styles for this wine, so choose one that has been aged in oak. The texture and richness from the oak in the wine can hold up to the buttery mashed potatoes or the classic bread stuffing. This especially pairs well if the stuffing is mixed with finely chopped sage, parsley or rosemary and highlighting the herbal flavors from the Sauvignon Blanc grape in the wine.
What about pie? Thanksgiving would not be the same without a delicious pumpkin or apple pie. I love a sweet Madeira with both of them, like a Bual or a Malmsey. The Madeira’s nutty and roasted notes combined with the high acidity complements the sweetness and texture of the pies while cutting through the richness of both. If you’re serving cheese after dinner (if you have room for it), another home run pairing with Madeira.
Traveling the world through the lens of wine and the various regions with family and loved ones is what I’m thankful for this year. Happy Thanksgiving!