Pairing Wine with Thanksgiving Dinner

how-to-pair-wine-with-thanksgiving-dinnerThere’s no better time to put the knowledge you have acquired (or are trying to acquire) about pairing wines to good use than during Thanksgiving dinner. No other meal, all year long, brings such a wide variety of dishes to the table than the smorgasbord that is Turkey Day. This year, show your in-laws up with a finely-tuned wine list to pair with the massive feast that will feed you for weeks to come.

Step 1: The Bubbly
No other drink optimizes the fine art of celebration like champagne. It’s a great aperitif and tends to steer your guests towards the celebratory frame of mind and away from the more critical “I can’t believe you’re cutting the turkey that way” mindset.

There’s also something to be said about the quality of champagne you serve here. Please keep in mind that cheap champagnes do wonders to upset peoples’ stomachs, give them headaches and a wide-variety of other possible ailments. Since they’re more likely to be sipping the bubbly (well, everyone except Aunt Agnes) you don’t need a lot so go ahead and splurge on some White Star and steer far, far away from the Andre you saw on special at the gas station.

Step 2: Pairing The Turkey
Both oven-baked and fried turkey is a unique meat in that it pairs well with both red and white wines, which can be used to shorten your wine selection if you’re on a tighter budget. It’s also a very dry (which your mother-in-law will remind you of throughout the night) meat so it goes well with a variety of crisp whites like pinot grigio and Riesling, as well as several reds like zinfandel and pinot noir.

Step 3: The Sides
Here is where you’ll want to offer a variety of pairable wines and let your guests choose from here. Perhaps a small, handwritten pairing note on an index card near the bottle will be able to help guide them in the right directions. I would definitely have a bottle of chardonnay on hand for the smokier flavored dishes and some sauvignon blanc for the creamier based dishes.

Step 4: The Deserts
If you can nail down a desert wine with a medium sweetness it’s possible to offer only one wine for 3 or 4 deserts, though offering two distinctively different wines here will be a better option for a large group of guests.

Specifically, any Muscat or Concorde or even fruit wine (growing more readily available from boutique wineries) would be a great choice for Thanksgiving desert. While I rarely point out specific wines, if you could possibly get your hands on a bottle of Royal Tokaji for every 3-4 guests, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor. I’ve not tasted a desert wine I’ve enjoyed more in my entire life.

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