How to Pair Wine with Thanksgiving

Baltimore, MD

We’re writing to you a little earlier than usual this week regarding a serious matter.

What wine(s) will you be serving at Thanksgiving this year?

And if you’re visiting friends or relatives for Thanksgiving, then what will you be bringing with you?

If you are in any way unsure, let’s go to work.

More on that below. First, be sure to check out Julien’s latest tasting… just in time for Thanksgiving (you’ll see why it’s very timely in the article below)… where he breaks down Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc… regional varieties… pairings… and what the heck people in New Zealand are talking about when they say they like “sweaty passion fruit” in Sauv Blanc…

Cont’d

Fair disclosure: at the Bonner household, we’re going to be drinking our Tacana this Thanksgiving (probably the 2016 for those of you reading this who have tried that vintage). 

TACANA

The one year we tried to swap it out for an expensive Cab from California, we all balked at the heavy filtration, which made the wine bland when paired with juicy turkey, homemade cranberry sauce, shallots, and chestnut stuffing. 

But Tacana may not the right wine for your meal. And there are plenty of options when it comes to a great wine pairing for Thanksgiving.

Let’s begin with right mindset: go ahead and throw out that overly complex “flavor chart” that looks like periodic table. A perfect pairing is a twist of fate. We can only do what we can to reach in that general direction.

There are two basic reasons we pair wine with food: to complement (say, a big rare steak with a Bordeaux or Malbec) or to contrast (say, a spicy Thai dish with a Prosecco). 

In the case of the Thanksgiving meal, we’re looking at likely high levels of fat, salt, and sugar. The sugar is the curveball here because depending on each family’s tradition, the sugar levels can vary widely (think: a baked sweet potato – actually quite low in sugar – versus mashed sweet potato with marshmallows and brown sugar poured all over). 

But okay, let’s get into the nitty gritty. Now, the turkey doesn’t matter. Everything goes with turkey except, possibly, the biggest of big reds (still fine but you won’t taste the turkey).

The parts of the meal we’re taking into consideration are the gravy, the sides (are they sugary as in the example above or more vegetal/starchy?), and the desert (assuming here that you’re not changing the wine with every course).

If the meal leans toward the sweet, you can get away with a bit more acidity and a chewier mouthfeel. Think Barolo (if you have any bottles of Pichemej left over from our Italian collection, that should cut quite nicely). 

If the meal leans toward the savory, you should think about dialing back the acidity. A pinot noir will not steer you wrong here, nor will a Beaujolais, or a Cab Franc.

Note: a lot of deep-fried food in your meal changes the equation. Here’s where you give that tanniny bottle of Tacana or Sunal Malbec from your Argentine collection a second thought. The Barolo will reward here as well. A Brunello too. 

But okay, what about dessert? Well, a big red will not work with pumpkin. Finish off that bottle of merlot or malbec before the pies make it to the table. And if you started with a big red, then you might want to just hold off for this portion of the meal and let your taste buds rest a bit. 

The dessert portion of your meal is where starting smaller, with the pinot noir or the Beaujolais, or the cab franc comes in handy. Even a lighter nebbiolo, and certainly a Chianti, could work too. No need to put the wine away when it comes time for the pies.

Finally, here’s what to do when you just have no idea: go for bubbles. A champagne will always work. If that’s not an option, try a Châteauneuf-du-Pape (preferably on the older side).

Wondering which Partnership wines might work? Okay, here’s our list:

For a sweeter meal:

  • “Pichemej” Barolo 2017 (Italian collection)
  • Télégramme Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2016 (French collection)

For a more savory meal:

  • Domaine Anita Moulin à Vent Coeur de Vigneronne 2018 (Beaujolais – French collection)
  • Maison Ventenac L’Intrus 2016 (Cab Franc – French collection)
  • Lagarde Guarda (Cab Franc – Argentine collection)
  • Ricasoli Chianti Classico Riserva 2016 (Italian collection)
  • Castello di Meleto Chianti Classico 2016 (Italian collection)
  • Puramun Reserva 2014 (Argentine collection)

If fried food:

  • “Pichemej” Barolo 2017 (Italian collection)
  • Tacana 2017 (Argentine collection)
  • Sunal Illogico 2016 (Argentine collection)

Oh and one more thought: depending on how long your meal is, keep an eye on the alcohol content. The Cab Franc and Chiantis will keep you going longer than an extreme altitude malbec. 

Enjoy!

Bonner Private Wines