What To Drink on Turkey Day?


Question from Janice: Hi! I’m hosting 20 people for Thanksgiving next week. It’s my first time ever to host and I want everything to be perfect. What wines should I buy to go with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner?

Reply: Hi, Janice. Thanks for writing! Not pumpkin juice… 

You know, with 20 people it’s really easy. There’s no way that all those people will like the same kind of wine so I’d go with serving a variety. Put out a bottle of white, red and rosé and let people choose for themselves. And, don’t forget that sparkling wine is extremely versatile, too, if you’re inclined toward bubbles!

If there’s a wine snob at the table who challenges your laissez-faire approach – all you have to say is that it’s impossible to find one wine that goes with the wild cacophony of flavors on the Thanksgiving table: savory turkey, spicy stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce plus the dishes that have become your own, unique family traditions. It’s impossible to be right – so it’s impossible to be wrong.

Now, some wines are more versatile than others. For the red-wine lovers I’d go with reds that have moderate alcohol and tannins. Pinot Noir is a classic choice. Grenache is so fruity and nice –another good choice. How about a Beaujolais Nouveau? As I mentioned yesterday, the worldwide release of this delightfully fruity, low-tannin red is today – and, besides the fact that it’s really fun to drink wine that was fruit on the vine mere weeks ago, it’s very versatile at the table. Whatever your choice of red, try to keep it under 14% alcohol.

For your whites, pick something fairly flavorful with good acidity. High-quality Riesling or Gewürztraminer would be my first choice.  Crisp, cool-climate Chardonnay comes to mind – think Chablis (the French kind;-) New Zealand-style Sauvignon Blanc has assertive flavors and mouthwatering acidity. Ask you retailer what he’s got in the way of crisp, flavorful whites.

Dry to off-dry rosé is so versatile – it’s just a tick lighter than the Beaujolais Nouveau. People seem to be cautious about buying rosé but if it comes from a high-quality producer it will be fruity, flavorful and not too sweet. The south of France is rosé central. You could ask your retailer to help you pick out a good one.

How much wine to buy? Event planners usually tell you to plan on 1/3 to ½ bottle per person. If your family’s like mine, you’ll err on the side of generosity ;- 0 And, since Thanksgiving is about sharing, if anyone brings a bottle of wine go ahead and serve it, whatever it is.

Happy Turkey Day, y’all! Cheers!

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