How to Choose a Wine for Thanksgiving Dinner
Thanksgiving is the one day to forget everything you know about wine.
Why forget everything you know about wine on Thanksgiving? Because Thanksgiving dinner is tricky. It's a hodge-podge of competing flavors: salty, sweet, sour, savory, rich, earthy, possibly even unearthly. The point is, somewhere along the line, your wine is bound to go clankity-clank!
Ultimately, the only advice left standing is...drink what you like. Which includes going beyond wine to crisp ciders and snappy suds.
So that's the good news. And here's even more good news. Because the meal is all about competing flavors, it doesn't make much sense to blow the bank on expensive wine. A nice mid-level wine is great. Something that still signals celebration but doesn't require hocking a kidney on ebay.
Can you handle another slice of good news? These days there's plenty of value in the $15–$25 range. When in doubt, ask the wine pro at the store for help in finding some good deals.
And then there's this. The traditional Thanksgiving dinner is a big, big meal. It's also a long, long meal. So you might want a wine that's bright and refreshing, not too big and alcoholic. Something you can drink for a while without face-planting into the mashers. If you can't decide between two worthy wines, let alcohol content be the tiebreaker, choosing the wine that's, say, 13% alcohol instead of the 14.5% bomber.
There are definitely wines that fit the bill, like a slightly sweet and aromatic Riesling or Gewürztraminer. And since this is the most American of holidays, try one of the great ones from U.S. producers, such as Washington State's Chateau Ste. Michelle for Riesling and Gewürztraminer, California's Gundlach Bundschu Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast for Gewürztraminer -- and keep an eye out for Oregon's King Estate Winery Pinot Gris.
As for reds, sweet dishes like cranberry sauce can make red wines taste bitter and sour. A go-to Thanksgiving red is Pinot Noir. It's fruity, has palate-refreshing acidity, and is typically less alcoholic than that other Thanksgiving favorite, Zinfandel. Check out Pinot Noirs from Oregon's Willamette Valley, like Willamette Valley Vineyards or Brigadoon Vineyards. Try lower-alcohol California Zins from Geyser Peak and St. Amant wineries.
What am I drinking? Well, if this year shapes up like every other, I'll start with a lowish-alcohol Riesling or Gewurztraminer, and enjoy it; it'll pair as well as anything, probably better. But then, I'll feel the pull of the reds, and eventually I'll slip into their orbit: the Pinot Noirs, Merlots, Barberas, whatever's red and on (or near) the table. And that's where I'll stay. What can I say? I'm better off red.
But again, the bottom line: Don't sweat it too much. Forget all the wine rules for this one day, have a relaxing holiday, and when you wake up on Black Friday, everything you forgot about wine will magically repopulate your brain.
Check out our complete collection of Thanksgiving Recipes.