Thanksgiving wines 1 of 2

Thanksgiving is the festive family feast where even people who don’t buy or drink wine very often buy and drink wine. Today’s column is for you.

Wine sophisticates already have a strategy, and they don’t need chirpy help from here, thank you very much.

Procrastinators see no reason to prepare eight days in advance—we’ll help you next week.

• Size matters. If there is only a clutch of people at your table, likely to drink only one bottle, purchase a good bottle of pinot noir, the classic turkey-pairing pour. Fine French stuff comes from Burgundy and will cost north of $30; seek guidance from your wine seller. Oregon, Washington State, and California are the top U.S. pinot regions and will cost $20-$30-plus for quality. New Zealand is up-and-coming in similar price range. Penny-pinchers can purchase pinot bargains, but few of those pours soar to pinot pinnacles. Make your one bottle special; spend more than a Jackson.

• If your family feast is big, crowded deal, think layering:

Start with apéritif—lower alcohol wine served before the meal to whet appetites and announce a party has begun. Sparkling, sweet riesling, vinho verde, even white zin works (if that’s how your crowd rolls). Best: sparkling. Who doesn’t like sparkling? What says party more than sparkling?

For the meal, go safe with pinot noir, but you also can toss in wild cards like zinfandel for those who want to get their buzz on early, or sauvignon blanc and chardonnay for those more demure at dinner. Given the diverse delights at a Thanksgiving table, it is impossible to mess up. Get a variety of wines for a variety of tastes. Include white zin and even beer; those people deserve to enjoy themselves, too.

• Small party or big party, remember the warm-glow time after you start the dishwasher and the kids/grandkids flee old folks. Pour small glasses of Porto, maderia, icewine/eiswein, revisit sweet riesling if all was not consumed (be sure to put back in frig during the meal). Sparkling also works—sparkling always works.

Each of us has much to be thankful for, especially the ones who gathered around your table, joined in your pre-meal prayer, lifted a glass, gnawed a turkey leg, celebrated life and love and family together one more time. That’s why we call it “Thanksgiving.”