By Tim Korby
On the Thanksgiving dinner table is an array of flavors ranging from sweet candied yams to tangy cranberry sauce; earthy root vegetables to herbal giblet stuffing; and, of course, there is both mild white breast meat and stronger dark thigh meat. With the multitude of different flavors already at the table, you want to make sure that your wine won’t overwhelm the food or interfere with the conversation but blend in with both. You and your guests should feel comfortable with the wine served, so the choice of wine will be different for each group, depending on the group’s experience level with wine.
Even though I grew up in California, it was generally a German wine on the table for the Thanksgiving dinner. It was usually something simple like a Zeller Schwartze Katz, which is similar to a German liebfraumich. We actually saved the good wine (often a BV Georges de Latour cabernet) for later in the evening with cheeses. The light and fruity flavors of German-style wines are a great choice for Thanksgiving because they actually do match well with many of the flavors on the table and they are wines that even those who don’t normally drink wine might enjoy. If you’d like to use an American wine for the American holiday, but with a similar style to a German, then try Firestone riesling from California or Ste. Michelle riesling from Washington State.
My aunt’s father was a restaurateur from Italy, and every third year, we would have an Italian/American Thanksgiving. Here, in addition to many of the American classics, would be eggplant Parmesan and lasagna with meatballs and sausages in red sauce. On the table would always be a bottle of chianti in addition to homemade red wine. If you are going to have red wine on the table, make sure to keep it on the lighter side; Ruffino or Melini would be good chianti choices. Again, if you’d like to go American, then look towards a lighter red zinfandel like Edmeades from Mendocino County.
Now that I have a smaller number at the holiday table, I can get a bit more extravagant with my wine choices. I always start out with a nice champagne as everyone arrives; this year’s choice will probably be Roederer brut. Then, I have both pinot noir and a white wine on the table with the meal. For the white, I am leaning towards Guigal Cotes-du-Rhone blanc because of its pear, honeysuckle and subtle herbal traits, which compliment many of the dishes on my table. For the pinot noir, (if still available) I will be decanting a Domaine Bart Marsannay from the Burgundy region of France, but again, if you’d like to stay with similar American wines, try Meiomi’s pinot noir from California, and for white wine, grab a bottle or two of Cline Viognier.
Remember that Thanksgiving is about sharing the things that we love with family and those that we love while giving thanks for all of these things. If you’re adventurous, then try something new, but if you are not and Kendall-Jackson chardonnay, Mark West pinot noir or Beringer white zinfandel is your family’s favorite, then by all means, stay in your comfort zone.
Tim Korby is the director of Julio’s Liquors and the-AngelShare.com online wine store. He started in the wine industry in California in 1976 and moved to the Boston area in 2000. In addition to being a retail wine buyer, he has taught wine courses since 1984 and has regularly written newsletters, articles and blogs since 1981. Tim travels the world several times a year to find just the right wines for his customers and to learn the true romance of the wines he sells.