HOW TO: Pair Wine with Thanksgiving Dinner

As you sit down to stuff your pie hole this Thanksgiving, you might not know which wine to wash it down with.  364 days I year I love geeking out on wine and food pairings.  Usually around late morning each day I'm thinking about what the main course will be for dinner, and which wine will compliment it.  It's pretty straightforward most of the time, but when Thanksgiving comes around, it's that one day out of the year where I feel like I'm playing Rugby with my taste buds. All the flavors together resemble a demolition derby of delectables that are all having a scrum on your dinner plate.  You have turkey, which is kind of dry until you gravy on it.  You have cranberry sauce, which is tart and sweet and gelatinous.  And you have mashed potatoes which are a starch (hopefully with butter) and of course all the other trimmings.  Where the hell is the bacon in all this?

There's no single wine that will compliment all of that.  My Mom usually just says, "screw it, I'm serving a buttery Chardonnay."  That's one approach.  Not really one that'll compliment the flavors, but it's one approach.  Keep in mind, the five taste regions on your palate are probably sweet, sour, bitter, salt and umami aka savory.  I say probably because every time I do a presentation about your taste buds, someone always comes up afterwards and reminds me the taste region theory is outdated and has been disproven.  It works for me.

If you really want to bring out the nuances of flavor through complimentary tastes, you might want to consider serving a couple of wines with dinner.  In recent years the Bakas family has been going with a 2-wine solution to Thanksgiving Dinner—A dry Rosé and a Riesling both for the main course.

The right Rosé will be dry with cranberry cider notes while hiding residual sugar.  That's ideal if your turkey wasn't brined for a month, then mummified in bacon.  It serves the same purpose as cranberry sauce to compliment the meal.  Pinot Noir can also be a good option if you want to have a red wine with dinner.  Pinot is light enough that it won't overpower the turkey while providing a warm cozy feeling for your taste buds.  Pinot Noir is also good if your table looks funny with just a rosé and riesling on it.  You might want to have a member of the red wine contingent in attendance and that's when you bring out the Pinot Noir.

The Riesling should usually be on the dry side too and could even be a Pinot Gris.  Alsatian wines are great with Thanksgiving due to their acidity and restraint of sweetness.  You want acidity in wine to "cut through" things like gravy or mashed potatoes.  A dry turkey will also benefit from a little residual sweetness.  Not that your turkey will be dry, it's just the nature of the bird. So there you have it.  When pairing wines with Thanksgiving dinner, reach for a nice pink wine not called White Zin and a drier style white wine like Riesling or Pinot Gris.  Depending on what you cram into your mouth will determine which wine glass to sip out of to compliment the flavors.  Of course, if you're my Uncle Earl you'll just have a beer.

Cheers!