The great annual celebration of Thanksgiving brings all our families together over a table with more food than any of us could possibly eat. So much thought and effort goes into producing the food, but very little thought goes into which wines to pair with this abundant meal. Beaujolais Nouveau often makes its debut as the first wine of the season and can bless our tables with a snapshot of the French vintage. Beaujolais Nouveau is rarely more than a bubble gum style wine and though very quaffable is hardly deign of gracing the table for the whole meal.
There are no hard and set rules to pairing the right wine with this traditional meal, but I will try to offer you some good tips on choosing the wine style appropriate to the celebration.
The first thing you need to consider is the sheer volume of heavy food you will consume during this meal. This meal weighs you down quickly so you don’t need a wine that will do the same. This is probably not the time for that big Cabernet, Merlot or Zinfandel. Does that mean that it is absolutely not allowed – no. If you love a wine and you are excited to drink it, then by all means bring it to the table. Just be aware that a heavy wine might bog down your palate and take you out of the game sooner.
Sweeter or super fruity wines are probably not a good choice either as they could potentially negatively affect the taste of the food.
Acid is key, and I’ m not talking that Ken Keasey you’re either on the bus or off the bus type of acid, but crisp sourness that will make you salivate and clean your palate in preparation for the next bite. The Acid profile in a wine whether it is white or red will count more than the fruitiness of the wine. It shouldn’t be wine with a level of acidity that will make you wince and drool out of the side of your mouth as if you just sucked on a lemon, but the type of acidity that is crisp, provides freshness and cleans your palate.
Body of the wine is also key. If the wine is too full-bodied then you might also get taken out of the dinner early. Full bodied wines will be too heavy for this type of meal. Look for a light to medium bodied wine that will keep you in the game for the long haul.
Tannin should be light or well-rounded and supple. That super tannic Cabernet Sauvignon with tons of oak that leaves you wondering where your gums disappeared to is probably not a good choice for this type of meal. Look for light tannins in red wines for Thanksgiving.
So what does that leave as options?
In whites: Albarino, Rueda, Burgundy or even California unoaked chardonnay, Dry German Rieslings, Austrian Gruner Veltliners are all natural choices. Dry Sparkling wines and Champagne are not bad choices either.
In reds: Pinot Noir especially from Burgundy, or Willamette Oregon, Grenache or wines from the southern Côtes du Rhône, Tempranillo, California cool climate Pinot Noirs, Beaujolais Cru or even Loire Valley Cabernet Francs, Valpolicellas, Barberas and Chiantis are all good choices.
For the wine tasting I am putting on tomorrow night I have chosen:
Paco & Lola – Rias Baixas – Albarino 2009
Lois – Gruner Veltiner 2010
Verget – Bourgogne Blanc – Grand Elevage 2009
Retorno – 100% Garnacha – Catalayud 2009
Pascal Granger – Juliénas (Beaujolais Cru) 2008
Ramsay – North Coast – Pinot Noir 2009
Byron – Central Coast – Santa Maria Valley – Pinot Noir 2009