Thinking of bringing some vino to your Turkey Day celebrations? Just about every media outlet with a Food section thinks you are, because at this time of year there are so many wines being recommended for your Thanksgiving spread that you might have just as much luck picking one by throwing a dart at your local Costco wine rack.
Never mind that trying to hunt down some of those choices is a recipe for severe antacid intake, there’s an even bigger problem with how most of those Turkey Day wine recommendations work: no single bottle of vino is going to please everyone at the party and play nice with your aunt’s sweet potato and marshmallow casserole, your uncle’s stuffing and Dad’s deep-fried turducken. Sorry, but that approach is like trying to storm a medieval castle with a toothpick.
To look like you know what you’re doing with your wine on Turkey Day, you need an approach that acknowledges that not all Thanksgiving celebrations are created equal so you can narrow the field. So if it’s coming down to the wire and you’re still not sure which wine to bring, match up your Thanksgiving plan from the choices below. We’ll hook you up with some general wine recommendations that will help stack the odds for tasty success in your favor.
Turkey Day Plan: Good ol’-fashioned family gathering (with what feels like 700 people)
Secret wine weapons: Riesling or Albariño (white), Beaujolais-Villages or Barbera (red)
This style of meal is the perfect storm for wine so you need a versatile arsenal of picks that won’t break the bank but will be able to hold their own with just enough of the food that you can make it until the football games kick off and the beer gets busted out. Acidity—the stuff that gives lip-smacking verve to wines—is your ally here. For whites, that means Riesling from just about anywhere (particularly off-dry versions, since even a lot of pre-dessert Turkey Day sides are fairly sweet), backed up by more unctuous but still sprightly Albariño from Spain. Fortunately for you, high-acid red wines are plentiful and tend to get short shrift in the mainstream wine press, making them relatively inexpensive. Beaujolais-Villages from France is a peppery, lively and versatile choice for reds. For more oomph, try Italian Barbera, which should go the distance with most meat dishes (unless they’re the so-damned-dry-I-think-it-might-actually-be-rope-and-not-turkey kind).
Turkey Day Plan: Dinner with her parents
Secret Wine Weapons: Bubbly (for starters), Pinot Noir (red, for later)
This tricky scenario offers enough challenges to make a Ph.D.’s head spin:
1) impressing her folks,
2) finding a decent wine-and-food match and hopefully
3) getting her into a sexy mood after you leave.
What’s most difficult? All three are intricately interwoven. I can see you sweating already. Just remember that you’re primarily out to impress here, because without that, numbers two and three are unlikely to happen. Start by bringing some bubbly: no one will expect it, and it will start things off on a celebratory note. Fruity and spirited Prosecco from Italy or the more toasty Cava from Spain will do you right if you’re on a budget. Follow it up with Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast, Santa Barbara or (for bonus points) Northern Italy. They’ll set you back a bit more, but a decent Pinot is both food-friendly enough to survive the Turkey Day flavor onslaught and offers enough sexy red berry and plummy fruit to get her thinking about how she’ll show you her appreciation for bringing some class to her parents’ dinner table.
Turkey Day Plan: That dinner you can’t get out of that ends in your obnoxious married neighbors throwing dishes at each other.
Secret Wine Weapons: High-octane Amarone (to get through dinner), Armagnac (in a flask, to sneak sips before, during, and after)
When your Thanksgiving dinner plans involve your own personal Hades-style torture—whether it be relatives arguing over politics, screaming kids tossing mashed potatoes at you or enduring your neighbors’ horrendous cooking—there really is no successful wine and food pairing plan aside from trying to weasel out of it and drinking by yourself. If you can’t escape, your strategy might need to be numbing the pain, so it’s best to find a designated driver and then plan on going tasty and high-octane on the wine. Italian red Amarone, made from dried grapes, delivers prune and dark cherry flavors and often clocks in at over 15 percent alcohol. Just in case, be sure to also pack something even more potent but still tasty (like French brandy from Armagnac); you know, for emergency purposes, when the fine china starts getting thrown around.
About the Author:
Want to learn more about maximizing your wine pleasure? Visit Joe Roberts’ award-winning website 1WineDude.com, where you can find him regularly roasting wine's sacred cow (and pairing it with robust, obscure red). Joe is a certified wine geek and has been called "an original" by media maven Gary Vaynerchuk, "provocative" by The Seattle Times and "a Robin Hood in the exclusive world of vineyards and corkings" by The Urban Grocer. His wine knowledge has been tapped by The L.A. Times, New York Times, CNBC.com, Mutineer Magazine, PalatePress.com and Washington Post.