Thanksgiving is either the most difficult meal with which to pair wine or the easiest.
Turkey and its trimmings go with everything and nothing at the same time. It’s those sides that throw everything off. From sweet candied yams to mushroomy green bean casserole to tart cranberry sauce, you really can’t pin down a flavor — or even a range of flavors — to complement.
You have a couple of options. You can stop fretting about your wine selection and drink whatever suits you (a fine course of action, if you ask me). Or you can follow a couple of tried-and-trusted guidelines. I won’t provide specific bottle suggestions because, frankly, there are so many options at so many price levels that getting into particulars seems silly.
A trusted salesperson should be able to provide that guidance. Knowing your needs and flavor preferences is the crucial thing. Here’s where to start:
As comfortable with turkey and gravy as it is with sweet potatoes, sparkling wine is probably the most versatile type of wine you can buy. Something with a hint of sweetness, like a prosecco or most any demi-sec, does the trick. Or go for a bubbly with the slightest bit of heft, like a cremant.
My favorite option, rose is the ultimate in-between wine. It goes with just about anything, which is why it’s often known as table wine in France. If you’re thinking white zinfandel, you’re on the wrong track. Rose is dry. It’s fruity without that Kool-Aid finish. Look for bottles from Southern California and French regions such as Provence and Tavel.
Simple, reds. If your instinct at Thanksgiving is to reach for a big wine because the flavors on the table are so grand, consider this: Truly powerful wines are likely to compete with your meal and add weight to an already weighty spread. Think instead of simple, fruity, light- to medium-bodied reds. Grenache and gamay are ideal grapes. A fruity pinot noir works very nicely, too. Also look for Italian Dolcetto d’Alba, as well as Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Ventoux blends from France.
You’d be hard-pressed to do better than a riesling. The best ones (a Kabinett from Germany is a good bet) are perfumed, fruity and appropriately acidic. They’ll clean your palate after every sip and won’t weigh down your meal.
Want more specific suggestions? Look to the free wine-pairing Web site of accredited sommelier Natalie MacLean. MacLean, author of “Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass” provides easy answers to what wines to serve with what dishes at www.nataliemaclean.com/matcher.
The site, which is a helpful plug for MacLean’s book, lets you pick the food you’ll be serving from series of drop-down menus, and then gives suggestions that will pair well. Or start with the wine and get ideas on what foods would go well. You can also enter your chosen wine for MacLean’s specific bottle recommendations.
The easy way:
Greet guests with a cocktail, and make it a signature cocktail you chose for the holiday.
Warm rum cider or champagne with cranberries in it are among the autumnal suggestions of Lara Shriftman and Elizabeth Harrison, party planners who design movie-worthy backdrops, gourmet food and heavenly music for the poshest, most elite Hollywood, New York and Miami parties.
Make or mix the beverage ahead of time and refrigerate (or keep warm if it’s cider), so that you’re not scrambling when guests arrive.
It’s also not necessary to fully stock a bar for Thanksgiving. Have beer and something non-alcoholic, but limit booze to wine, champagne and vodka. Keep soda, tonic and juices on hand to mix with the vodka.
Don’t forget to buy ice and fresh lemons and limes. If you don’t want to spend the money on bottled water, put tap water in a pitcher on the table and add a few limes or cucumbers to give it a nice flavor.