Guy du Vin Thanksgiving Schmanksgiving Wine Guidance

I still like this cartoon that we used last year for our Thanksgiving newsletter. That’s probably a bad sign, because I tend to like the same bad jokes over and over – like Republicans and Democrats or taking food and wine pairing for Thanksgiving seriously.

These are the weeks when we are inundated with newspaper articles and blogs with every wine nerd’s idea of what wine you should drink with your Thanksgiving dinner. The problem is that turkey and ham are two of the least wine friendly foods out there. The frequency with which these earnest articles and posts run (this one included) is sort of pathetic and therefore funny in their gravity and seriousness.

Nobody really cares about which wine to have on their Thanksgiving Day of patriotic gluttony – except wine geeks, bloggers, editors and people who think far too much about wine to be healthy. The rest of us just go about our business of buying too much food, cleaning the house, sharpening the axe and chasing down the turkey before Aunt Bea shows up at the door in the same outfit she wore to your parents’ house in 1953.

By the time Thanksgiving rolls around – wine – beer – red – white – scotch – or Formula 44 – who cares? Just fill up my glass, hand me the remote and spread out – I need some room!

My guess is that most people spend as much time thinking about which wine to serve on Thanksgiving as they gave to deciding who to vote for in the past election. (All you “undecideds” – you’re at the kiddie table this year – again.)

All that being said – I am a wine geek so how can I let a national food day go by without adding my exceptionally insightful two cents on what to drink. I can’t allow you to follow bad or wrong wine advice (that is – any advice that isn’t mine). So if you are one of the few people who really are going to take time to think about what to drink at Thanksgiving – here are some basic guidelines to help you avoid bad food and wine pairing mistakes.

Rule #1 No matter which wine you pick for Thanksgiving, it will not work perfectly with everything you serve (unless you serve only one dish – in which case you may skip all of the following rules). The reason for this is that there are dozens of flavor combinations spread on the average traditional Thanksgiving table. You might consider serving a wine that is a personal old favorite or perhaps you may just decide to match up a single dish or two.

Rule #2 No matter what you read in the newspaper or in food and wine magazines, roast turkey is hard to pair with wine. Turkey often makes your wine taste metallic – especially wines that are tannic and astringent (like Cabernet Sauvignon). Wines that emphasize fruit and that are fuller bodied tend to work better.

Rule #3 Avoid serving your wine at too cool a temperature. Cooler temperatures tend to reduce a wine’s fruity element, which is what blends better with Thanksgiving flavors.

Rule #4 In general, avoid wines with high alcohol levels (above 13.5 %). Wines with high alcohol tend to taste a little hot and can easily overpower food and emphasize flavors in a goofy (technical food term) way.

Rule #5 If your budget allows, open a number of wines and let your guests choose the one they prefer. This takes the pressure off of you and the wine. (This works unless you are a person that tends to make “groups” of bad wine choices rather than “individual” bad wine choices).

In general, you are better off keeping your extra special wines for another occasion – like the day after Thanksgiving when all the guests are gone.

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