A Winemaker's Guide to Thanksgiving Wine Pairing
Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate all of the wonderfulness in your life. It's a time to eat delicious food, celebrate family traditions and, of course, enjoy local libations. The Williamsburg Winery Winemaker Matthew Meyer has shared his tips for picking the right wine to pair with your Thanksgiving feast.
Look for white wines with acidity and, of course, bubbles! Wines with palate cleansing acidity will be refreshing and press the reset button after having hoards of rich and flavor food covered in gravy (which I love by the way). I'm a fan of dry to off-dry Rieslings on Thanksgiving - acidity is your best friend. My love of Champagne and sparkling wine is well-documented, and not many meals call for bubbles as much as Thanksgiving dinner. The food is eclectic, and at times very rich and heavy, often requiring you to loosen the belt loop and retreat to the nearest recliner. Bubbles will reinvigorate your palate, your spirit and your appetite.
Light bodied and fruit forward red wines play nice with everyone. It's important to remember that Thanksgiving may not be the best time to show off your biggest, boldest, most age worthy bottle of New World wine. One, you've got a lot of family coming over and certain family members may not appreciate your lovely bottle of rare wine and you wouldn't want to be disappointed by their reactions of, "oh this tastes like wine." Second, there's a lot of different flavors going on - from an herb roasted game bird to grandma's sweet potatoes with marshmallows and maple syrup - it's a tough menu to pair. Rich, full-bodied wines with aggressive tannin would not play nicely with the flavors of a Thanksgiving meal - the key word here is meal. These types of wines would pair nicely with certain elements of the meal, but when combined, it's just not the right fit. Wines I'd recommend are Pinot Noir, Gamay and Virginia Cabernet Franc.
Well balanced Chardonnays with a hint of oak and butter are the perfect pairing. Everything's better with a little bit of butter, right? Well, for most, the main protein served on Thanksgiving is turkey and it's usually served with gravy, mashed potatoes and some green veggie casserole - all of these things incorporate butter as a flavor component and require some acidity to balance them out - cranberry sauce anyone? Chardonnay can be your best friend on Thanksgiving if you've got a lot of people coming over with a wide variety of drinking preferences. After-all, it is still the most popular grape in the world.
Remember, the most important rule of wine pairing is drink what you like and do so with confidence. Wine, like Thanksgiving, is all about having fun and bringing people together. This Thanksgiving I am thankful for you, my Virginia wine family - Cheers!