Some people are intimidated by wine choices for the big Thanksgiving family feast. There is no reason for discombobulation.
The Thanksgiving meal arguably is the easiest repast of the year for wine pairing. Typically there are so many different things to eat and so many different people to eat them, almost any wine will pair with something or someone.
Suggestions, presented to help you prepare:
• Start with sparkling. You don’t have to go the expensive Champagne route, unless you want to, but avoid the bottom shelf plonk that really is mediocre white wine injected with CO2.
• If there is a starter course—fruits, fish, raw veggies, charcuterie—sauvignon blanc is an almost faultless choice. New Zealand makes the zingiest, but quality sauv blanc—sometimes described as “salad in a glass”—has many makers. You can pass on the sometimes pricey Pouilly Fumé or Sancerre, but also avoid the bottom shelf stuff.
• If the centerpiece of the festive feast is turkey, it is hard to go wrong with pinot noir. Washington and Oregon make delightful, often light and sophisticated pinots. California pinots tend to be heavier. Cheap, mass-produced pinot noirs tend to have as much as 25% non-pinot grapes, and the pinot grapes are not the best. Spend some money here, $20 or more. After all, this is the centerpiece of the event. Pinot noir also pairs well with ham, if that is your preferred protein.
• If you go with beef, cabernet sauvignon, cab-merlot blends, and malbec are safe choices. Those wines also pair with lamb. Like the pinot, avoid the bottom shelf, spend more than $20. Don’t go, however, for three-figure pours. Your meal likely is a gastronomical marathon filled with boisterous family fun and bonhomie. Save the high-dollar reds for a more intimate, less hectic repast.
• Dessert? Port. Rule of thumb: the wine must be sweeter than the dessert.
• Gruet Brut Rosé NV: Superb, accessible, correct pinot noir brute sparkling. $13-20
• Siduri Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2020: Superb entry-level pour into delicious world of Siduri. Elegant, easy drinker. $17-22
• Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Porto 2016: Easygoing, approachable, affordable. Legendary vintage. $25
• Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, Hallberg Vineyard 2018: Lilting delight from special vineyard. Excellent fruit, superb acidity, deft use of oak. $55-60
Last round: I love how people claim Thanksgiving is the only day of the year they overeat. Give me a break. Give me a glass of wine. Wine time.