This is always one of my favorite articles of the year — and not for the obvious reasons of the importance of gratitude, the onset of the holiday season and the promise of winter’s wonder. It’s also my favorite because the traditional Thanksgiving feast is full of wonderful and diverse flavors that make for a wine-pairing playground. While good Chardonnays and Cabernets are not bad choices, they fall far short of perfect matches for this festive holiday fare.
The traditional Thanksgiving feast is full of wonderful and diverse flavors that make for a wine-pairing playground.
Thanksgiving classics and fall food in general offer lots of earthy, spicy flavors from the herbs and spices to the root vegetables, roasted meats and dark sauces. Staples such as pumpkin, squash, apples, potatoes, turkey and ham; warming herbs and spices such as cinnamon, allspice, clove, rosemary, thyme and brown sugar; and tangy fruits such as cranberry, persimmon, pomegranate and orange zest open a myriad of vinous possibilities.With mind-, belly- and heart-stirring images like those, let us go a little deeper to choose wine partners that compliment and energize. We need wines with a little oomph. Also, with large groups the order of the day, less expensive varieties wouldn’t hurt. Here are some sure-to-please choices at wallet-friendly prices.
Bubbles are clearly in order and none are spicier than Spanish Cava. For around $10 you will get tasty versions made with the traditional grapes — Macabeo, Parrellada and Xerel-lo — that can be matched with virtually any Thanksgiving course.
If you want to celebrate USA wines, white Rhône blends from California or Washington also make great food partners. From the Old World, look for unique flavorful finds such as Malvasia, Verdicchio, Vermentino or Picpoul. Italian, French and Spanish versions offer authentic food-friendly palates and can be had for a song.
Value-priced earthy, spicy reds filled with red and black fruit flavors such as California’s spice-box Zins and Petit Sirahs absolutely rock with fall food flavors. Concannon Wines from Livermore make especially tasty Petit Sirahs from some of the oldest vines anywhere. If you go the Zin route, look to the Sierra Foothills or Paso Robles and ask your wine purveyor to suggest dry versions because the sweet grape-jelly Zins will fall to pieces with bold foods. Pinotage from South Africa and Carménère from Chile are other good choices.
Quady Essencia Dessert Wines bring a spice box of orange or berry flavors riding on full unctuous bodies. Moscato Wines from Piedmont in Northern Italy are also dessert-course winners with their inherent sweetness, tangy citrus and honey flavors, a good cut of acid, light alcohol and usually a slight effervescence that dance with fall desserts and always seem to at least postpone food comas so you can enjoy more friend and family fellowship.