Entertaining | Which wine to choose for Thanksgiving

Entertaining

Which wine to choose for Thanksgiving

The first thing to bear in mind about Thanksgiving - and for that matter Christmas - is that it’s as much about mood as food. Who you’re inviting, what age they are and how big your party is are factors every bit as important as what you’re eating.

I say this particularly because the main Thanksgiving meal and the meals around it are hard ones to match: what you need is a wine that is going to cope with a whole battery of delicious flavours.

Personally I always like to start a celebratory meal like this with a glass of sparkling wine which gets everyone into the festive spirit. It doesn’t have to be Champagne (though in our house it usually is!) - there are many good substitutes available from cut price cava (good for parties) and Prosecco to Champagne lookalikes that come from premium sparkling wine-producing areas such as California and New Zealand.

If you’re starting with a soup such as a pumpkin soup or a creamy chowder as you may well be I’d suggest a smooth dry unoaked or lightly oaked Chardonnay or a Chenin Blanc. That might sound like a bit of a cop-out - everyone drinks Chardonnay but that’s because everyone likes Chardonnay - and for festive family meals what you’re looking for are crowd pleasers. Smooth dry whites are also just about the best available match for soup.

If you’re planning some kind of seafood starter Sauvignon Blanc is generally a safe bet though if it incorporates Asian flavours you could serve a dry or off-dry Riesling.

For the turkey itself I would offer a choice of white or red - a full-bodied Chardonnay or Viognier for the more adventurous and a ripe fruity red - something like a Zinfandel, Merlot, Carmenère, Shiraz or a full bodied Pinot Noir (lighter styles may get swamped by the big flavours of typical turkey accompaniments). Your instinct may well be to bring out a much treasured old bottle you’ve been saving for a special occasion but I would save it for a smaller gathering and a simpler menu. What you need with turkey and its trimmings is a wine that is vibrantly fruity not one that’s faded and delicate. If you don’t already have a favourite bottle in mind it’s a good idea to visit a local wine shop or merchant that has regular tastings so you can try a selection of different wines before you buy.

Desserts again can be a bit of a minefield for wine, particularly if you’re serving more than one. Pumpkin pie, I’ve found is particularly good with a southern French Muscat or Spanish Moscatel, wines which would also work with a traditional apple pie. If you’re serving a chocolate dessert however I’d suggest a sweet red wine such as a sweet Shiraz. or, again for adventurous guests, iced shots of a raspberry-flavoured liqueur or a cherry brandy. The basic rule to bear in mind is that your wine should be sweeter than your dessert - and served well chilled.

You may also find this post useful on the difference between the Thanksgiving turkey and a Christmas turkey when it comes to choosing wine and this longer post on drink matches for pumpkin pie.

Got other ideas? Do email your favourite pairings to us at greatmatches@matchingfoodandwine.com. To subscribe to our free monthly newsletter and be eligible to enter our fabulous prize draws click here or to get notice of posts as soon as they're published click here.

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