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, Julien 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...

How to Pair Wine with Thanksgiving (Continued)

Fair disclosure: at the Bonner household, we’re going to be drinking our Tacana this Thanksgiving (congrats to those of you who were able to snap some up recently).

One year we tried to swap our malbec out for an expensive cab from California. We all balked at just how bland it tasted when paired with juicy turkey, homemade cranberry sauce, shallots, and chestnut stuffing (a product of too heavy filtration?).

But if Tacana isn’t right for your particular meal, 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 power (the Toro or the Montepulciano from our most recent collection could work really well).

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 Toro and Montepulciano will reward here as well.

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. (If you started with a gigantic red, it’s okay to let your taste buds rest a bit, too, before, perhaps, a digestif.)

The dessert portion of your meal is where you will be rewarded with having started smaller with, say, a pinot noir or Beaujolais, or cab franc. 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). Or, here’s a curve ball: a bottle of the Tercero Verbiage Rouge 2015 from our West Coast collection.

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

For a sweeter meal:

  • Tenuta Vallocaia Bindella 2018 (Ancient Wines collection)
  • Dominio del Bendito El Buen Rollo 2019 (Ancient Wines collection)

For a more savory meal:

  • Campidivini La Chiusa Toscana 2016 (Ancient Wines collcetion)
  • Château Ventenac Le Mas 2015 (French collection)
  • Bouchaine Estate Pinot Noir 2018 (West Coast collection)
  • Muscardini Cellars Tesoro 2019 (West Coast collection)
  • Iron Horse Vineyards UnOaked Chardonnay 2019 (West Coast collection)

If fried food:

  • Marquis de Saint-Estèphe Château Léo de Prades 2016 (French collection)
  • Tacana – any vintage (Argentine collection)
  • Sunal Illogico – any vintage (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.


The Wine Explorer

Bonner Private Wine Partnership