Red or white? Full-bodied or medium-bodied? Prosecco or Champagne? Is it ok to serve a $10 bottle of wine to my guests? When determining which wines to pair with your Thanksgiving meal, there are so many factors to consider. Fortunately, we’ve enlisted the help of one of our favorite sommeliers, Carol Berman, founder of Class in a Glass, to offer the top five factors she looks for when pairing wines for holidays.
1. Thanksgiving wine should have an abundance of fruit. There are so many flavors at the Thanksgiving table: salty, sweet, and tart to name just a few. A wine, which is too dry, will collide head-on with the meal, while the fruiter wines will get in there and mingle with the various flavors.
Recommended: White - Riesling or Gewurztraminer; Red - Gamay (Beaujolais Villages) or Pinot Noir
2. Wines should be light in terms of style. In the world of wine, there are many styles and flavor profiles within each of the grape varietals. For Thanksgiving, wines which are lighter in style are preferred because full-bodied wines can overpower the flavors and textures at table. For example, a full bodied, powerful red wine would be better served with beef, and not turkey.
Carol likens wines to milk to illustrate the difference between lighter-bodied and fuller-bodied wines.
- Lighter-bodied wines are like skim milk on the palate.
- Medium-bodied wines are like whole milk on the palate.
- Full-bodied wines are like cream on the palate.
3. Wines should be lower in alcohal level. Wines with lower alcohol levels, such as German Riesling or Italian Prosecco, which is a refreshingly fruity, sparkling wine, tend to work better with the Thanksgiving feast. Higher alcohol in wine, when combined with the tryptophan in the turkey, does not make for lively conversation, but instead may have you napping at the table!
4. Price range should be higher for small groups, lower for large groups. For smaller, more intimate dinners of four people or less, you may want to serve one of the special bottles which you've been saving. Smaller groups make for a more relaxing meal, at which your guests can slowly sip and enjoy. For larger crowds, I would look to serve delicious wines in the $15.00 price range, and there are plenty of them out there.
5. Dessert wines should be low in alcohal and light. If you plan on serving a dessert wine at the end of the meal, you may want to consider a low-alcohol, frizzante (lightly sparkling) quaff such as a Moscato d’Asti or a Brachetto d’Acqui, both from Piedmont, Italy. Both are refreshing and lively, and can be served before dessert as a palate cleanser. If you wanted to pair a dessert wine with traditional Thanksgiving desserts, such as pumpkin, pecan, or apple pie, you can serve a cream sherry or perhaps an ice-wine.