By Amy Ruis
I love the frenzy of Thanksgiving week at the store. It’s fun to watch people come in with their tattered and splattered recipe cards — from Aunt Ruth’s buttery rolls to grandma’s traditional green bean casserole. They’re on the hunt for a new serving platter, a replacement for the melted salt and pepper shakers to place on the fancy table or the elusive perfect wine to pair with the plentiful spread on deck for the afternoon.
Thanksgiving Day is fantastically food driven with so much variety, and your wine picks should be, as well. There is no one answer; if you intend to while away the day with a few glasses here and there, I’d suggest these options:
Low octane – One of the hot things this year has been an outpouring of people asking about lower ABV (alcohol by volume) beverages. And when you’re taking the whole day to enjoy beverages, it’s good to start on the lower range of potency. So, offer a spritz — Negroni spritz, St. Germain spritz, Lillet spritz; the possibilities seem endless! What is a spritz? It’s bubbles of some sort (prosecco, cava) mixed with a traditionally bitter liqueur and then topped with soda water. This is one way to start a party with minimal effort and ingredients but makes you look like you provided a lot of effort. Don’t forget the garnish.
Bubbly – True Champagne is probably my favorite pairing for Thanksgiving Day. It also is lower in alcohol than still wine, and it’s ultra fresh and flavorful. Often showing toasty, yeasty, bready, lemon curd notes, true Champagne is something to be consumed more than just on New Year’s. Drink it for dinner. Also, some studies show it might even aid in digestion. If your budget doesn’t allow real Champagne (usually $40 and up), feel free to head to the cava or prosecco shelves, but grab something decent from a small producer; it’s Thanksgiving and it’s worth it.
White wine – Almost any white wine should make Thanksgiving Day great. It’s versatile stuff, so pick your favorite profile from riesling (sweet or dry and oily), chenin blanc from South Africa or the Loire of France, viognier, chardonnay or just a beautiful Italian one.
Rosé wine – Just say yes to rosé any time of year, but especially now. This is another satisfying direction to pair for a crowd because it runs right between red and white and can have a bit more body but isn’t heavy on the palate. It also can be a great budget find at this time of year because most stores want to run low on it by the time Thanksgiving is over.
Red wine – Because of the multitude of food options regaling you on this day, red wine is a hard friend to match. Save the big cabernet or syrah for sipping by the fire later or for the night you have Kobe beef sirloin. For now, reach for lighter style pinot noir from France, Oregon or Michigan. Leave those big California options to rest. And if you want to go ultra traditional, there’s gamay, the grape that makes Beaujolais wines. Beaujolais doesn’t have to be Nouveau (the drink-it-once-a-year-on-Thanksgiving wine), it can be really rewarding to find other slightly more elegant Beaujolais. Ask your wine store friend for some.
So, there it is, this year’s guide to shopping for Thanksgiving wines. Have a happy, restful day!
— Amy Ruis, owner of Art of the Table and Aperitivo, is a wine enthusiast who is working on her Level II sommelier certification.