As Thanksgiving approaches, we’re inundated with advice about which wines to serve at the feast. Some voices advocate for certain wines, others for different ones. And in addition to contradictory preferences, the advice is subject to trends. A handful of years ago, Zinfandel both white and red held sway. That advice has been off the table for awhile as red Zinfandel has transformed into a super red, which everybody agrees won’t work with this meal. If you’ve decided to opt out of the fray and rely on tradition, serving spring water and beer like the Puritans did, you’d have good reason. And there’s always apple cider, which can be a wonderful beverage these days.
But assuming that you are like me, careless with controversy and unable to eat a meal, any meal, without wine, you’ll probably move ahead with your own choices. So please don’t consider what you’re about to read as advice. It’s simply one woman’s wine practice for a meal that she dearly loves.
Despite the importance of the holiday, I consider it a relatively informal gathering and expect family members and friends to wander over to my house a good deal earlier than when the meal will actually begin at the table. And anyway, dinner time depends on my timing, and that can be unreliable. So sparkling Prosecco is the welcoming glass along with a few simple appetizers. Bubbles are synonymous with celebration, and Prosecco is my perfect aperitif for Thanksgiving, not only because it’s deliciously refreshing, but it’s also light at only 11% alcohol unlike champagne, which can be 12.5% to 13.5% or more. Since a lot more wine will be served at the table, exhausting alcohol tolerance before the meal has even begun is unwise.
Finally everyone is sitting around the table and the feast begins, turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, string beans or zucchini, and salad last at my table. For me, this combination requires white wine, still or sparkling, and rose`. The old adage “white wine with white meat and red wine with red” applies here without equivocation. But which white wines? Don’t tell, but in my case, the answer becomes whatever is in the warehouse at the time. But if I were to decide more thoughtfully, I would say Gewurztraminer or Riesling with the slightest bit of residual sugar. These wines refresh with acid and complement yams and sweet potatoes, and anything sweet in the stuffing. They’ll even hold up to cranberry sauce if you happen to be talking to the person next to you and take a sip of wine without thinking about your last mouthful. Aromatic dry whites are also a good choice, like Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, and Sylvaner. Even Chardonnay and Rousanne could be good, especially those fermented in stainless steel tanks instead of oak barrels so that they have retained their acidity and pure fruit flavors. But if you think a table isn’t a table without a red wine on it, it needs to be very light and fruity. Rose’ wouldn’t be red enough for your taste, so for you, I’d choose Beaujolais or even a light Grenache.
Last, but definitely not least, the desserts arrives, and with them, I’ll be serving sparkling Moscato d’Asti, typically around 5% alcohol, remarkably aromatic and light bodied, just what everyone needs to refresh at that point in the meal. I can hardly wait!