Thanksgiving is this week here in the U.S. and that means that just about every wine blog in the country will have a post on what wines to serve at Thanksgiving. They will all cite the fact that it is near impossible to find a single “perfect” wine that will pair well with all the foods that will find their way on to the table.
And they would be right.
I would hazard to guess that most wine people spend more time figuring out what wines to consume on Thanksgiving than they will spend exercising the following month trying to burn off all those extra calories consumed.
I say: don’t waste your time, as there is no “perfect” Thanksgiving wine. Instead, follow these simple guidelines on what not to do.
Don’t be bold: Unless you are at home and can go down into the cellar to grab something else, now is not the time to experiment–go with what you know.
Don’t go all in: Yeah, I get it, Thanksgiving only comes around once a year, and for those types of events, we usually like to pull out the big guns. Well, the focus of the Thanksgiving meal is the food, not the wine, so let the food win. I am not suggesting to break out the schlock, I am just saying don’t waste the Domaine de la Romanée Conti on the marshmallow yams. Save it for when I come over to visit!
Don’t forget your audience: You will be probably be having dinner with other people (or worse, your family), and that means that there will likely be someone there like your Uncle Cletus who really does not appreciate wine. If you break out one of your favorite bottles, though, I can guarantee that either good ole Uncle will pour half of the bottle into his glass before it even makes its way back to you, or you will be tempted to keep the bottle hidden at your feet and only pour it for yourself. Option one will cause your head to explode and option two will make you a pariah when cousin Bobby rats you out.
Don’t be a hero: If you are into wine, your friends and family know it and therefore you think that they are expecting you to blow their minds with the most amazing pairings on the planet. They aren’t. What they are hoping is to stuff their faces and not have to sit through another one of your blow-hard diatribes about wine and food. Just put a bottle on the table and try not to bore anyone to death. Leave that to the Detroit Lions.
So what should you drink? Personally, I think there is far too much time and effort put into wine suggestions for Thanksgiving. Not one single bottle will work, but most won’t be too bad. My advice? Drink a bottle of what you like. That way, when Aunt Alice’s turkey comes out way too dry yet again, the day won’t be a total failure.
For those of you that need still a bit more direction, here are a few of the wines I will be considering this Thursday….
The “All-American” Choice: Zinfandel. Considered by some as the “American grape” so why not have some on the table for one of the more American of holidays (I am ignoring the fact that our interloping neighbors to the north also have Thanksgiving)?
2013 St. Amant Old Vine Zinfandel Mohr-Fry Vineyard Lodi: Retail $18. Not big at all but still juicy: my kind of Zin. Mocha and depth. Fantastic, but for the price? Practically stealing.
2012 Gary Farrell Maffei Vineyard Zinfandel Russian River Valley: Retail $48. Perhaps not an every day wine, and I know this flies in the face of one of my directives above, but this is an incredible wine. Deep, rich, and full of verve, this was a wine that eventually changed my mind about Zinfandel (in a good way).
The Outside of the Box Choice: Moscato d’Asti. I was recently at a wine tasting here in Philadelphia hosted by the indefatigable Marnie Old, where she persuasively made the claim that Moscato is the “perfect” wine for Thanksgiving. While “perfect” might be a bit hyperbole, it is indeed a worthy contender.
2014 Saracco Moscato d’Asti: Retail $15. Loads of melon and white peach, but low on the alcohol (5-6%). The fermentation is stopped part way through, leaving a natural sweetness in the wine. Well balanced with a slight fizz.
The Wine Geek Choice: Pinot Noir.
2012 La Crema Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast: Retail $25. A deep, complex nose with red berry fruit and cloves. On the palate, rich and full all the way through but also with a bit of earth. The finish is a bit brief, but memorable.
2013 Laetitia Reserve du Domaine Pinot Noir: $42. Richer than the Estate (Laetitia’a $25 Pinot) with darker fruit-more muscle here, a real bruiser with black and blueberry. Plenty of acidity to go around as well, particularly on the finish. If you like a little bigger Pinot, this is for you.
The Seasonal Choice: Beaujolais Nouveau. This is perhaps the easiest choice on the list. the wine is the first of the vintage, released on the third Thursday of November. Conveniently, Thanksgiving is but a week later, so there is usually a ton of this stuff still around, and despite what some will lead you to believe, it is all pretty much the same. So get the cheapest stuff (should run you about $10-12). Oh, and make sure it is the current vintage–never drink Beaujolais Nouveau unless the year on the bottle is the current year.
The Better Choice (and the Best Choice): Sparkling Wine (and Champagne).
Lucien Albrecht Crémant: Retail $17 I drink a bunch of champagne. A bunch. But it can be pricey. Really pricey. When I want quality bubbles at a reasonable price I opt for a Crémant, usually from Alsace. And this is one of the best. Citrus, spunk, lasting finish. What else do you need?
N.V. Duval-Leroy Rosé Prestige Premier Cru Champagne: Retail $65. 90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay. If you are going to be among wine people, and you want to make an impression, look no further. Rich and full, this will handle any turkey day fare with a aplomb.