For many, wine isn’t just something you drink while in your jammies watching The Good Wife to help you unwind after a crazy day. It is food, or at least an important component to a great meal and arguably the greatest meal of the year for many is Thanksgiving dinner. So to help alleviate some of the stress associated with great meals, here are my wine tips for Thanksgiving 2015.
- Go lighter, brighter. Thanksgiving is a heavy day on the system. Why add more weight? By weight I mean the weight of the wine. Big wines are weighty…heavier mouthfeel, possibly more oak aging, often more tannic, definitely higher in alcohol. Who needs to add those monsters to our already tryptophan tripped out bodies? To me, light and bright is sparkling wine, and sparkling wines come in various weights from light (most Prosecco) to heavy (some Champagnes). I prefer medium weight…domestic sparklers or cava from Spain or a cremant from Alsace. I also prefer a rose sparkling wine. Often pinot noir based, it goes well with the Thanksgiving table, visually too. Or look for more acidic wines (like sauvignon blanc) or lighter reds (like many pinots). Don’t fear acidity…it is a great component for food wines.
- It’s not easy to match everything on the typical plate. To use relationship lingo…it’s complicated. Some flavors are singular, some marry well, some clash but subtly, some are open and flexible, some are outright nasty to one another. We no longer typically eat the protein-starch-vegetable meal, especially on Thanksgiving, where everything is also potentially layered with smoke, heat, sweet, sour, creaminess, spice and more. Consider the entire dish, not just the turkey, which in and of itself is relatively easy to pair with. But let’s face it, for most meals it is now the frame as even the moderately foodie among us tries to spread our Food Network-powered wings. Oh and if you are having a “traditional Italian-American” Thanksgiving, toss in antipasto and/or red sauced pasta dish, for starters of course. Again, look for acidity to help cut through all that, and what has more acidity than any other wine? Sparkling wines…plus the bubbles scrub the palate of all the stuff that was happening on the plate.
- Want to drink only domestic wines to be in the spirit of our American holiday? By all means do so but try to stay away from those high alcohol, tannic, low to no acid reds from California. Plus if you have an above average amount of spicy heat in your meal, the tannins in those reds will only exacerbate it. But why stop at just domestic. Is your turkey local? Or at least some of the fixins on the table culled from the farmers market? Then don’t just eat local. Be a locabibe. If most of our food comes from an average of 1000 miles away, its safe to say most of our wine comes from a minimum of 3000 miles away. But there is really good (yes really good…really) wines made within 500 or so miles of our community. Westport Rivers in Massachusetts makes one of the best domestic sparkling wines I have had and they are 40 miles from where the pilgrims first landed. There are a myriad of top flight rieslings from the Finger Lakes, a whole batch of fine wines made in the footsteps of history in Virginia and of course some wines made right here in NJ that are good by any standard, not just for the Garden State. Beneduce Vineyards and Heritage Vineyards are two of the best.
- Cider in the house rules! Looking for a good alternative to wine? I have been a big proponent of cider for a long time now. They really can be a midpoint between wine and beer. They come in a variety of styles, from bone dry to sweet and a lot of points in between. They fit into that whole drinking local thing pretty easily. And they tend to go really well Thanksgiving food offerings.
- It’s a holiday. And as a holiday it is typically spent with family and/or friends, keep in mind who is around your table. Don’t be a wine hump. That doesn’t mean you have to not drink the wine you want to, but unless you are totally surrounded by a group of people of a similar wine mind, then don’t be “that guy”. And let’s face it, “that guy” is almost always a guy. Even if in a room filled with people who can be seen as “that guy” when it comes to wine (I mean “insufferable” if you have not figured it out by now), they still will refer to the other guy as “that guy”. As we get older, who is with us for Thanksgiving is not a given every year any longer. It is probably not the day everyone or anyone wants to hear that the grapes were hand harvested from south facing slopes and if you are upset because your cousin is slugging it back like Gatorade or because Aunt Edna still likes white zinfandel better, you aren’t getting it.
One last note, I don’t make many specific suggestions because not every wine store carries any given wine. Any store worth its weight though ought to have staff that can guide you to choices of wine for anything mentioned here at the price you are comfortable with. But try not to go at the last minute if you want to spend some time getting customer service.
That all said, it is the golden age of wine consumerism…there is an overabundance of really good quality wine from more places near and far at all price points available to us today than ever before. Be thankful for that. But be thankful for the most important things first. Happy Thanksgiving!