When you think of Fall, lots of images come to mind: cooler weather, leaves changing colors, the grape harvest, and most importantly, Thanksgiving!
You plan the menu, pull out the china, set the table and think everything is ready to go. But, you feel like you’re missing something. Guest list, check. Table set, check. Menu set, check. Wine selected…Uh oh! How could you forget the other main component to Thanksgiving dinner? You start looking through the wine you have on hand but are dumbfounded. What on Earth should you serve with Thanksgiving dinner?!
Wine on its own can be overwhelming, and then comes trying to pair it with the grand meal. Bam! Panic City. But have no fear! The Wine Team at Oliver’s is here to help you. The following basic guidelines to pairing food with wine will help you to build some skills. Then, we’ll highlight our top three “sure bet” grape varietals for your Thanksgiving table and why they pair so well with the cornucopia of delicious foods you’re serving.
We all know that eating good food and drinking good wine go hand in hand, especially at Thanksgiving. Serving the right wine can bring an even greater enjoyment to your meal. An easy way to look at it is the wine that you drink can be the final “seasoning” of anything you’re eating, the wine pulling out flavors in the meal that you didn’t even know were there. One of the best things about gastronomy (loosely defined as the study of food and wine) is the coming together of all parts of the meal to create a pleasant and satisfying experience. With more wines available to us than ever before, look at food and wine pairings as a fun way to experiment with no single correct answer.
A quick search of “food and wine pairing guidelines” on the internet results in almost 500,000 results. Some articles claim that there are 15 rules to follow, others say seven, or even five. We want it to be simpler than that: we have three – only three — guidelines to follow when pairing food and wine.
One: Think regionally. There is a saying that goes “if it grows together, it goes together.” It’s no surprise that Italian reds pair with red sauce based pasta dishes, or that Russian River Valley Pinot Noir pairs well with a dish featuring Liberty Farms duck breast.
Two: Use your senses. Evaluate the different characteristics of the wine to match it with the dish. Evaluate the weight of the dish and the wine. Light/medium/heavy wines will pair best with similarly light/medium/heavy dishes. Evaluate the volume of flavor in the dish. Lighter flavored dishes usually pair with lighter flavored wines, and the same goes for bigger flavors and wines. Evaluate the texture and temperature of the dish, keeping in mind that they can be prepared multiple ways. For example, you can have tuna sashimi style, or hot off the grill (that would be Champagne vs. Pinot Noir).
Three: Balance flavors. Here you want to pair foods with wines that have similar, or complimentary flavors. Think mildly flavored dishes with mildly flavored wines, etc. Lobster with butter sauce and California Chardonnay are a great pairing because they are both rich and buttery in flavor. You can have pairings that have contrasting flavors (yes, opposites sometimes attract!), but it can get tricky, so you may want to stick with complimentary pairings until you get the hang of it.
The Thanksgiving Dinner Sure Bets
Now that we have covered the basics of food and wine pairing, let’s talk about our three “sure bet” wines for Thanksgiving. They are Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Rosé.
Pinot Noir has always been the “go to” Thanksgiving wine, and it still is. With its bright acidity and mild tannin structure it can match almost any dish on the table. From bringing out the juiciness in the turkey to enhancing the flavors of the cranberry sauce, mushroom based sides and even sweet potatoes, Pinot Noir also marries well with all green vegetables.
Believe it or not, there are a few white wines that show well at your Thanksgiving table, but our favorite hands down is Pinot Gris. With bright fruit flavors of apple and peach, lively acidity and minerality, Pinot Gris will pair well with most anything on your table. As a bonus, it will refresh your palate in between bites of all of that rich food.
Rosé. Yes, it’s not its own varietal, but it’s an excellent choice for your Turkey Day meal. In between a white and a red wine in both weight and flavor, this crisp, slightly acidic and fruity wine is a great companion to everything on your table. Rosé would also work wonderfully as a start to the Thanksgiving Day festivities.
So, whether your desire be white, pink or red, we’ve got your bases covered. Come down to your neighborhood Oliver’s, where our wine staff is ready and eager to help you pick out the perfect wines for your Thanksgiving dinner.