The Dreaded Thanksgiving Holiday Wine Pairing Article, Part CCXXII

Vinted on November 21, 2011 binned in holidays

I do this because… well, honestly because I feel obligated.

You know that feeling you get in undergrad where you have a term paper with about two days before it’s due and you haven’t started it yet but you have to do it? The same feeling that marked the advent of the first day of school after Sumer vacation, or harkens the impending ring of the Monday-morning alarm after a night of overdoing it while watching Sunday Night Football?

I have that feeling.

Because I need to do the annual Thanksgiving holiday wine pairing article.

It’s my belief that the standard holiday wine pairing article is hackneyed and has, for most intents and purposes, jumped the shark. Why? Because no wine critic or educator knows your personal taste preferences nor do they know the ingredients of your Aunt’s famous casserole, which, after all, is only famous within your family and her glee club. So you’re far, far, far better served by going to a wine shop that you trust, telling the folks there what you like (here’s some help on figuring that out) and what food your serving, and getting their recommendations.

Your personal preferences always trump all, but at holiday time we’re rarely buying just for ourselves – and there are indeed some food & wine matchups that do not, in fact, match up. So while I could never give you exact holiday wine recommendations (at least, not without an exact holiday food match to go with it!), I can provide two general pieces of advice that might serve you well in narrowing down your selections

And so, my turkey-lovin’ friends, here they are:

1) When in doubt, go high acid.

Acidity is your friend when you don’t know what you’re going to eat, or when (as is the case in my family’s Turkey Day gatherings, the variety of food options and their preparations is so great that no one wine has a prayer in hell of matching with everything. As I’ve noted on these virtual pages before, Acidity will almost always do right by your food – it’s the kind of friend that loans food its power tools, buys it two rounds and never asks for a return favor. For whites, options abound, but I’ve had success (as much as can be had at holiday meals, anyway) with my personal fave: Riesling (but then, that might just be because it’s my personal fave!). For less-sweet (and less acidic) white options try Gavi or Soave from Italy.  For reds, I love me some Cru Beaujolais because they are so versatile while still being compelling (please, please, please stay away from the bad Beaujolais Nouveau, okay?).  Bubbles can work, too, because most of them are very high in acid.

2) Roasting? Go big – VERY big.

Slow-cookin’ that turkey for several hours basting in herbs and the deliciousness of its own juices? Then there is pretty much no wine big enough to eclipse the bird. Yes, I know it’s basically white meat, but that doesn’t matter. Slow-roasting turkey or chicken imbues so much flavor and hefty mouthfeel to that white meat that you’d be hard-pressed to find a wine that it can’t stand up to, including heavyweights like Barolo and Amarone. Now, there’s zero guarantee that those enormous red wines will play nice with any of the other foods you’re serving that aren’t slow-roasted meat and potatoes, so your mileage will vary (considerably).

For an added bonus, head on over to The Passionate Foodie and check out Richard Auffrey’s sake and sherry recommendations (you’re family will never see that one coming!).  As always, your holiday wine pairing reco’s are encouraged, so comment as you deem fit!

Cheers – and have a safe & happy Turkey Day, peoples!





  • @RichardPF

    Thanks very much Joe for mentioning my Sherry/Sake TDay post! Will you try any sherry or sake this holiday?

    • 1WineDude

      Richard – YW! I may do that, actually – some sake is calling my name from the cellar. :)

  • Alder

    What's next? An article about Sparkling wine in December, and a piece about Rosé in May? Since when do you have a yearly editorial calendar? ;-)

    • 1WineDude

      Ah, Alder – go easy! :)

      I've written about T-Day in some way/shape/form every year here. And it's becoming less fun every year. ;-)

    • 1WineDude

      Oh – and the biggest thing I've really said about Rose is that it will probably up your chances of getting laid when used on a date – MUCH more important info. than wine+food pairing!!! ;-)

      • @fatcork

        Want to up your chances of getting laid on a date even more? Rosé Champagne!

        • 1WineDude

          @fatcork – Damn, bro, you are relentless! :) But you also have a (very good) point…

  • @fatcork

    We have two rules for Thanksgiving wine:

    1. Champagne must be involved.
    2. All wines must be in magnum format or larger.


    • 1WineDude

      @fatcork – Magnums? Damn, you roll hard!

  • 1WineDude

    I should probably point out, for the record, that the 'go big red with big slow-roasted bird' pairing idea was recommended to me by some sommeliers and wine directors, and I tried it at two different restaurants with fantastic results. So there is some method behind that madness :).

  • Tom Wark

    This is a pretty simple task, Joe: Just make pitcher after pitcher of the classic Manhattan. Start when you put the Turkey in the oven. By the time the turkey is out and the gravy remains lumpy, you won't care about the pairing. Simple solution.

    • 1WineDude

      Tom – that also is a winning formula for dealing with abrasive family members and screaming children over the holidays… :)

  • Susan

    I think, bottom line, is that all this wine pairing for Thanksgiving is just a lot of hype. In reality, guests generally have to drive home and only the hosts are drinking wine with dinner and can drink whatever they like. The only wine pairing I have to consider for guests is what to serve with the hors d'oeuvres , not the meal. I offer them a choice of sparkling, red or white when they arrive.

    • 1WineDude

      Susan – I think the only thing consistent about Turkey Day is that people gather to eat together. :) other than that, everybody has different circumstances, food and drinking situations and preferences, so general wine suggestions are ok but very specific recommendations just are not helpful unless people dig that style of wine already. There is really no one-size-fits-all way to do it.

  • Trackbacks

  • Trackback from Thankful for Wine and Spokane | Nectar Tasting Room and Wine Blog
    Tuesday, 22 November, 2011

    […] and major newspaper posts their Thanksgiving wine pairing suggestions. They range from the crazy 1WineDude pairing to the regional suggestions of New York Cork Report or Washington Wine Report or the […]

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