Choosing a single wine for Thanksgiving dinner is difficult, given the great variety of foods and flavors, but this is precisely where to look for clues: flavors. Consider the flavors you might expect from the dishes you selected off the menu and also consider your own taste and inclinations at the moment.
Let’s say you chose the Vermont Turkey Dinner from our Thanksgiving Menu: Savory Sage Bread Stuffing, Mashed Potato, Cranberry Chutney, Gravy and Market Vegetable. You can easily imagine the light sweetness of this dish. To stay in line with this, you might consider a rosé wine or a fruity red. To add a bit of variety or to surprise the palate, you could go with a slightly tart red.
You may have learned that, as a general rule, red wine accompanies red meat and white is the choice for white poultry and fish. This is a good rule indeed, but do not disregard your own gut feeling and also dare to try something different. Even if you are not a big wine drinker, a few sips of a good wine that adds just the right touch to a dish can make an already great dining experience even better.
If there are several people around the table, and it would be reasonable to share two bottles, then try wines that are slightly opposite each other so that you may experiment with flavor pairing. By reasonable we also mean in terms of considering the volume of wine that represents and whether this still allows for a safe ride home. At the risk of sounding like a mother hen… while you may not have to bring your own wine, do bring your designated driver!
Potatoes and yams, white and dark meat, buttery roasted vegetables, sweet or slightly spicy stuffing offer a variety of flavors and subtle variations throughout the meal. Each course presents an experience in its own right and the spicy pumpkin pie adds a subtle spark to conclude the meal. The right wine will accompany the meal and close the evening with just the right touch. This is a gift, allowing you to re-discover the joy of tasting every bite and every sip.
Thus, when choosing wine for your meal, or trying to convey what you have in mind when dining out, the most important factor to consider is taste. Taste is something you can imagine and describe. You do not need to know the name of wines. Ask your dining companions, the waiter/waitress or the chef for advice. Secondly, consider the type of wine. Essentially, red, white or rosé.
White – A Chardonnay will add intensity, with a touch of oak-like flavor. A Sauvignon Blanc might be a pleasant selection for the traditional Thanksgiving dish as it offers a fruity and tangy bite. For instance, you might favor this wine if you are having Maple Glazed Ham. It would also make a fine accompaniment for our Salmon Coulibiac (Salmon, Spinach and Artichoke Mousse wrapped in Puff Pastry served with Lemon dill sauce, Rice Pilaf and market vegetable).
Red – Red wine and turkey do make a good pair. Again, consider flavor. Go for a light red, one that is not too tart. A Zinfandel, while intense, can also offer very fruity flavors. This is perfect. A Pinot Noir would be a great selection as well, especially one of a younger vintage, which tends to be fruitier. And you cannot go wrong with a slightly chilled Beaujolais. These reds also pair admirably with such fare as our Lamb Shank, served with Roasted Red Potatoes and Market Vegetable.
Rosés – The “in between” wines. They are crisp and light all at once and perfect with just about any Thanksgiving course. Along with reds, they are a good choice for a table where not all dining guests are used to having wine with their meals. Rosés are not too shocking, but crisp enough to excite the palate and enhance the dining experience.
Thanksgiving, and the Holidays in general, are the perfect occasion to reacquaint yourself with the true pleasure of eating well, and eating well is about what is on the table and who is sharing it, as much as it is about bringing the process of tasting, truly tasting, to the forefront of the moment.