Wine Press – 5 alternative wines for 5 classic Thanksgiving foods
Christmas, New Year’s Eve and other December holidays often grab all of the attention this time of year.
But when it comes to food, few holidays hold a candle to the Super Bowl of annual holiday feasts – Thanksgiving.
Yes, there’s more to Thanksgiving than the food.
Just ask Dallas Cowboys fans – and Patriots fans this year as well. (The Pats play the Vikings on Thanksgiving at 8:20 pm.)
But for many people, Thanksgiving revolves around the dinner table.
Not surprisingly, one of the questions about wine that I have often been asked over the years is which wine should I serve on Thanksgiving.
So most years that I have written this weekly wine column for the past 10 years, I have done my best to try to offer a few Thanksgiving wine suggestions.
In the past, I have written about different wines ideal for Thanksgiving dinner, including a wide range of red, white and sparkling wines, including wines for leftovers.
Another year, I wrote about 5 classic Thanksgiving white wines and 5 classic Thanksgiving red wines.
I’ve even written about which Thanksgiving wines you might like based on your favorite Thanksgiving movie. (Like “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”? Try an Australian Shiraz since “you clearly have a great sense of humor and love oddball comedies.”)
This year, I decided to take a slightly different approach.
This year’s Thanksgiving wines include five “different” wines that pair well with five classic Thanksgiving dishes.
Let me add that one of the best things about Thanksgiving dinner is there are often so many different foods served that day that you honestly can’t go wrong with whichever wine you decide to serve.
Because let me let you in on a little secret.
Pretty much any great wine goes great with a Thanksgiving feast.
So if you love a subtle pinot noir from Oregon or France’s Burgundy region or a vibrant riesling from Germany’s Mosel region or Canada’s Niagara Peninsula, by all means, please serve those wines and enjoy.
But if you’re looking for something completely different as they used to say on Monty Python’s Flying Circus, here are a few distinct suggestions designed to pair well with your favorite Thanksgiving foods.
These five wines include two reds, two whites and one dessert wine. Best of all, most of them cost less than $20 a bottle as well.
And if want to have one of these wines with something else on the table, that’s fine too.
Remember, there’s no one sitting there with a rule book or a scorecard.
Drinking wine – especially with family and friends on Thanksgiving – should be fun.
Hope you enjoy and have a great Thanksgiving.
RECOMMENDED WINES
Cranberry sauce
No Thanksgiving meal would be complete without cranberry sauce, especially in New England. And while you can serve cranberry sauce straight out of a can, nothing beats fresh, homemade cranberry sauce made with fresh cranberries.
Recommended Wine – 2020 Rainer Wess Gruner Veltliner ($16.99 at Provisions in Northampton)
Tasting notes – This wonderful white wine from Austria made with Gruner Veltliner grapes has a crisp, slightly grassy finish reminiscent of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. There’s nothing sweet or cloying about this intense, delightfully dry white wine bursting with flavor. What a joy to drink. And in this particular case, the wine’s dry, crisp flavors pair well with the tartness of traditional cranberry sauce.
Mashed potatoes
For some people, the main Thanksgiving vegetable should be squash. For others, it’s green beans and almonds. But if we’re talking classic Thanksgiving vegetable side dishes, you have to go with mashed potatoes, partly because it tastes so great with turkey and gravy.
Recommended Wine – 2016 Summer Wood Marsanne Paso Robles ($35 suggested retail price)
Tasting notes – This subtle white wine from California’s Paso Robles region (located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco) is made entirely with marsanne grapes. You might not have heard of this grape, but it’s often blended with other grapes (especially roussanne in France’s North Rhone region) to make subtle white wines. This wonderful wine proves that marsanne can taste great on its own. Its flavors range from slightly fruity and pear-like to hints of apricots and toasted vanilla.
Stuffing
For many of us, the stuffing’s just as important as the turkey on Thanksgiving. Thankfully, my wife has perfected a stuffing recipe that’s out of this world. It also takes more than a day to prepare, which is why we only have it once a year.
Recommended Wine – 2020 Veramonte Carmenere ($12 SRP)
Tasting notes – Carmenere might not be a well-known red wine grape but it’s often blended together to make some of the best red wines in France’s Bordeaux region. In recent years, many winemakers in Chile have made terrific red wines using carmenere grapes. This light, easy-going red wine from Chile’s Colchagua Valley is a great example. Its ripe, bright flavors include hints of cherry, raspberry and blackberry – the perfect pairing with heavier, heartier foods like Thanksgiving stuffing.
Turkey
The centerpiece of many Thanksgiving feasts, it’s almost impossible to think about this holiday without thinking about turkey. Other side dishes might come and go but slow-roasted turkey remains the star that other recipes orbit around.
Recommended Wine – 2018 Giuliano Rosati Valpolicella Ripasso ($19.99 at Provisions)
Tasting notes – Every Thanksgiving feast should have at least one, outstanding, full-bodied red wine. This showstopper from Italy’s Valpolicella region hits all the right notes. Its big, well-rounded flavors range from toasted walnuts and black licorice to roasted cherries and blackberries. This wine also illustrates why many fans of elegant Italian red wines adore Ripasso, a type of red wine made in Italy using re-pressed grapes first used to make much more expensive Amarone wines.
Pumpkin pie
Despite eating mountains of potatoes, stuffing and turkey, many of us always magically seem to find room for at least one piece of pumpkin pie. My grandmother used to make a great one. Years later, no Thanksgiving dinner seems complete without warm pumpkin pie and whipped cream.
Recommended Wine – Fonseca Bin 27 Port ($15.99 at Table & Vine in West Springfield)
Tasting notes – Dessert wines seemed to have gone out of fashion in recent years. Maybe it’s because so many people seem to be in a rush these days. But there’s definitely something to be said for slowing down and savoring a glass of something special after a long, hearty meal. And Thanksgiving’s the perfect time to do just that. Port is a type of dessert wine from Portugal. (You can read more about them in this column in a few weeks.) This particular non-vintage port from Fonseca has a rich, velvet-like finish with hints of blackberries and milk chocolate. So pour yourself a glass with your pumpkin pie, then slowly finish the rest of it in front of a roaring fire or while watching your favorite football team.
Cheers!
(Wine Press by Ken Ross appears on Masslive.com every Monday and in The Republican’s weekend section every Thursday. Older “Wine Press” articles can be found here. Follow Ken Ross on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook.)
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