Wine pairings from appetizer to dessert at the holiday table
It’s that wonderful time of year that begins the season of gastronomical delights. This is the time that the bride and I start planning our menu, and, of course what wines we will pair with the meal. Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and there’s no better time to start selecting wines to complement your feast. Historically, the week before Thanksgiving is a great time to buy wine as many merchants will run specials on preferred wines.
The big question every year is which wine or wines go with the variety of tastes, textures and aromas that uniquely present themselves on Thanksgiving Day. Can you choose one wine to carry you through appetizers to desserts? It is a tough request, but certainly doable. Or should you choose several wines to accent different components of the meal and cater to a variety of guests’ palates? The choice is entirely up to you, but here are some options to get you started.
The traditional Thanksgiving spread usually goes the complete range from appetizers, to white and dark turkey meat, ham, mashed potatoes, yams, herb-filled stuffing, cranberry relish, and, of course, that wonder of wonders — the green bean casserole — to pumpkin or pecan pie. Is there truly a single wine that can take you seamlessly from start to finish?
The art of pairing wines with food is largely a matter of personal preference, but some tried-and-true Thanksgiving wines are pinot noir and syrah/shiraz and zinfandel for red wine lovers and sauvignon blanc, Viognier, riesling and Gewürztraminer for those who prefer white wines.
Typically, wines that offer a light-medium body and present themselves with lower tannin levels and less complexity are better suited to the vast array of flavors they’re meant to complement.
If, however, you’re pressed to pick a single varietal that could handle the traditional Thanksgiving spread from start to finish, it would hands-down be a riesling. Riesling is a true winner because of the different styles or brix (sweetness) versions of the wine. From very sweet to dry, it can pair based on your taste to the complete meal.
Here is a profile of whites I would recommend and what they pair well with on your menu:
• Sauvignon blanc is a crisp white wine noted for its earthy, herbaceous flavors — a prime candidate specifically for turkey and herb-filled stuffing;
• Viognier is a white wine with low levels of acidity and characterized by light floral flavors often surrounded by delicate touches of apricots, peaches and pears and;
• Gewürztraminer is another white wine that may present itself dry or sweet, depending on the style. This wine has a zestinest that allows it to pair nicely with side dishes that may have a bit more kick to them, but also settles well with a variety of dessert options.
Top red wine options for your table are the following wines:
• Pinot noir, a red wine that’s a traditional favorite for Thanksgiving. It’s easy going enough to complement just about any flavor you can throw at it;
• Zinfandel, a red wine that ups the intensity from a pinot noir, but still maintains a balancing effect on many traditional side dishes. This would be a great pick for those looking for a heartier wine with deeper flavors;
• Syrah/Shiraz — another red wine that picks up the intensity and flavor, yet graciously handles the cornucopia of flavors in a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The peppery notes will accent a flavorful helping of stuffing as well as both the white and dark turkey meats and;
• Beaujolais Nouveau (Granache) — a light, fruity red wine that goes very well with turkey and all of the fixings. This wine is released from France on the third Thursday of November, just in time to highlight your Thanksgiving feast.
There is a wide range of recommendations for dessert, including sherry, with the second contestant being a late harvest riesling. A tawny port could also stake quite a claim on a slice of pumpkin or pecan pie. All three options offer the sweetness and the viscosity to support the rich flavors and robust spice of the pumpkin pie as well as the caramelized flavors found in a pecan pie.
Sherry, late harvest rieslings and tawny ports all are fairly accessible, especially at this time of year and most merchants will carry plenty of producers in all three categories.
If you have any room left after indulging in your feast, it is always nice to relax with a nice cognac.
The Cork Guy is a local Texas coastal connoisseur of all things wine. With taste buds especially adept at unraveling the mysteries of the vino world, we hope you will enjoy his visits to Coast Monthly. You can reach the Cork Guy at firstname.lastname@example.org.