Almost any wine, red, white, rosé, or even sparkling, will be fine with all the myriad flavors extant on the traditional Thanksgiving table—but there’s one huge proviso: as long as you don’t expect the wine to work with the food.
That’s because no single wine will.
For decades, I’ve written columns on “what wine goes with turkey,” even though I know no single wine could ever fit that event.
The one huge fallacy in such wine columns: Great Thanksgiving dinner tables will have so many different flavors and tastes, savories and sweets, that six or eight wines would work well with such panoply.
But for various reasons, the myth that’s perpetuated is that there is one wine, perhaps two, that work best with the traditional Thanksgiving dinners. Such columns usually go on to offer suggestions.
The problem is obvious: What counts most at family gatherings are people. Sure, it’s better when the food and wine are delectable, but the traditional family gathering around a dinner table doesn’t need a discussion of the quality of vintages in the Pfalz.
In fact, wine may not be appropriate for many diners. Some folks may want a beer, others cola, iced tea, or Cherry Kjafa and soda water.
Diverse groups may also include people who like wine, but only white zinfandel. And someone might say he must have a Grand Cru burgundy or another who’ll argue that only one wine goes with Thanksgiving dinner—a Nouveau Beaujolais.
This year, the 2021s will be released on Nov. 18.
If the dinner table at Thanksgiving had only a traditional roasted turkey with sage, a light, elegant, herbal/cherry-scented cabernet might be nice. But almost no one makes such a wine these days. Almost all are heavy, rich, dense, weighty monsters, laden with oak.
Moreover, assume that the stuffing has raisins, chestnuts, and another sort of dried fruit. Then the cabernet will taste odd. Cabernet works best with savory, not sweet things. For that, perhaps an off-dry riesling would be best. But then we come to candied yams (marshmallows?), creamed corn, carrots with orange marmalade, cranberry sauce.
So, we need at least three wines—dry, off-dry, and sweet. And perhaps the dry wines should include one white, one pink, and one red. Now we’re up to six.
If we try to focus on dry wines because the mashed potatoes and gravy, the stuffing, and the turkey are the main features, then look seriously at cru beaujolais.
This isn’t the frivolous nouveau. Wines from the 2020 vintage that were released in spring are less than $20. Of the 10 Cru regions, those that make the richest wines are Moulin-a-Vent, Fleurie, and Morgon; more elegant are Regnie, Chiroubles, and St.-Amour. This is one red wine that may be served slightly chilled.
Other choices for adventuresome diners:
New Zealand sauvignon blanc, notably for those meals where there is a lot of greenery, such as salads, artichokes, avocados, cilantro, and even a vegetarian main dish.
Grenache, especially one from Australia where the flavors of the wine emulate cranberry and plum.
Lemberger from Washington state.
Barbera from Italy.
Whatever you choose, remember that family, happy recollections, and sharing the best in our lives is far more important than a wine that got 98 points.
Wine of the Week
NV Barefoot Bubbly Brut Rosé, California ($10): Nothing says festive better than bubbles, and this reasonably priced sparkler often can be found at about $8 and at that price is an excellent value. The flavors are of strawberry and cherry, and the wine isn’t completely dry, but good acidity allows it to work not only for toasting, but with the food as well.