Wine column

What to drink with your Thanksgiving dinner

By Molly Steinbach
For The Taos News
Posted 11/1/18

Believe it or not, four Thanksgivings have passed since I started writing about wine for the Taos News, yet I have never written a wines for Thanksgiving column. For a holiday that is all about …

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Wine column

What to drink with your Thanksgiving dinner


Believe it or not, four Thanksgivings have passed since I started writing about wine for the Taos News, yet I have never written a wines for Thanksgiving column. For a holiday that is all about the table, that seems like a serious oversight.

I suppose part of the reason for that (besides the fact that I’m contrary by nature) is because the traditional Thanksgiving dinner centers around turkey. And pairing wine with turkey does not require the help of a professional.

You can drink pretty much anything with turkey. Sure, some heavy wines might overpower the bird, but for the most part, the turkey is happy to trot alongside whatever you feel like serving.

The rest of the Thanksgiving feast, however, is not so tolerant: tart cranberries; sweet potatoes with marshmallows or maple; rich, mushroomy green bean casserole; salty, tongue-coating gravy. When you start to think about all the flavors and textures involved in the traditional Thanksgiving feast, finding the perfect wine can seem quite daunting. You want something with some acidity to stand up to the tartness and cut through the rich textures, but with enough fruit or residual sugar that the wine won’t taste like vinegar next to the sweet potatoes as well as a wine without massive tannins that would fight with the salt.

Zinfandel is often regarded as the holy grail of Thanksgiving wine pairings, and I wouldn’t disagree that zinfandel definitely fits the bill. Beaujolais is another good one, as is riesling. And, of course, we can always go with our standard “when it doubt” wines: sauvignon blanc and pinot noir.

But this year, I want to mix it up. For my Thanksgiving table, I’m turning to an off-dry Alsatian white, a blockbuster Bordeaux blend from California and the most elegant sparkling cider you’ve ever tasted. So, let’s pop some corks, fire up the oven and try not to set a kitchen towel on fire like I did last Thanksgiving.

2013 Eric Bordelet Poiré Granit ($32) isn’t wine, but in a blind tasting, I’d be hard-pressed to call it cider. Well, that’s not entirely true. An overwhelming aura of pear characterizes  the wine, both in aroma and flavor. But the fine bubbles set it apart from any other cider I’ve tasted. A pleasant sweetness comes to the palate, thoroughly balanced by a blooming acidity that will dance nicely with all those complicated elements of the feast.

Bordelet, a Parisian sommelier, takes the fruit from his family’s apple and pear orchards in Normandy, and “vinifies” them like the best French sparkling wine. The pears that make his Poiré Granit come from trees over 300 years old. Truly a bottle for which to be thankful.

The Sparr family of France’s Alsace region have a similar pedigree. They’ve been making wine since 1680, and their long expertise shows in their handsomely crafted wines. 2014 Pierre Sparr Gewürztraminer Alsace ($20) is fresh, floral and fruity, with aromas of candied yellow apple, lychee and rose, but with a bright minerality on the finish and a whiff of spicy white pepper to keep the fruit from tasting too sweet. I’m imagining how those sweet potatoes will taste with this wine and can’t wait for the appointed day to arrive.

And now for something completely different. Bordeaux wouldn’t be my go-to for Thanksgiving dinner (though I’m sure some others feel differently). I feel that the sweeter elements of the Thanksgiving dinner would clash with it. But a Bordeaux blend from California, especially one heavy on petit verdot, a robust grape, with bold black fruits and often a hint of sage? What better for Thanksgiving?

2015 Matchbook California “The Arsonist” ($29) is over half petit verdot, with a balance of malbec and cabernet sauvignon. The color pops the minute the wine hits the glass, a bright tomato red. The aromas are at once savory and juicy, with balsam, brown butter and blackberry, turning to cassis, lavender and cocoa on the palate. This bottle took a few minutes to open up, so make sure you open the bottle in advance of dinner to get the full, splendid effect.

I know I’m making a big deal about “the perfect pairing” here, but the truth is, if you gather the right people around you, it doesn’t matter so much what food is on your plate or what beverage is in your glass. You’re bound to have a beautiful day. A great wine can only make it better.


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