Thanksgiving is more about food than wine. It’s a banquet with a lot of rich dishes that use a long list of ingredients and take hours and hours to plan/purchase/prepare. I recommend wines that a) showcase the chef (Mom), b) won’t put your family to sleep (be mindful of the alcohol content!), c) are fruity (to complement the flavors of the meal) and d) come in at least two different colors (an attempt to please everyone).
Really, the Thanksgiving menu is all about the stuffing with an obligatory piece of turkey and assorted vegetable concoctions on the side. Consider the flavors: Fruits such as cranberries, oranges, apricots and cherries are added to the stuffing and relish to enliven the relatively neutral taste of turkey. >>Beautiful with an off-dry or off-off-dry white wine. Assorted types of nuts – walnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans and chestnuts – are used in a stuffing or a vegetable casserole to add crunch. >>Excellent with white or light red wines. Various members of the onion family – garlic, shallots, leeks find their way into the stuffing to add pungency. >>Superb with white wine. Mushrooms and sausage >> red is preferable because of its weight and body.
The sides: Creamed onions, corn pudding, mashed potatoes, potatoes gratin and glazed sweet potatoes call for a white wine with plenty of acidity to cut through all this richness. Brussels sprouts and broccoli, both from the cabbage family, are not great with wine. But, their slight bitterness is so welcome next to the sweet relishes.
Conclusion: Gewurztraminer or Riesling as the white wine. They are both aromatic, with a slightly sweet bouquet, can stand up to the fruit in the stuffing and relishes, and also add a fruity flavor to the turkey. Gewurztraminer has a distinctive, sweet floral, rose, clove, apricot and lychee perfume, although it tastes dry, and has some weight. Riesling, also highly aromatic, has floral, lemon and peach on the nose, relatively low alcohol, light body and high acidity.
The bird: I like a soft, fruity red such as Merlot, Malbec or a Syrah blend or rosé with turkey. Merlot has dark berry, plum and chocolate aromas, it’s soft and rich, with relatively low acidity and tannin. (Yummy. Never mind that movie.) Malbec is jammy, with berry, plum, cherry, vanilla and cinnamon aromas and soft tannins (Save your tannic wines for red meat). Syrah has a dark berry, violet flavor, is rich and fruity, but it has pepper and spice notes. A blend will most likely be lighter bodied than a single varietal Syrah, a good strategy for a big meal. Rosé works well with this menu because it is bright and refreshing, light-bodied, with little tannin and compatible cranberry and strawberry aromas.
First and foremost, I think that American wine should be served on an American holiday. After all, it’s a harvest festival celebrating local ingredients. But if your favorite uncle likes French wine, then by all means, serve an Alsatian Gewurztraminer and Côte du Rhône (Syrah/Grenache/ Mourvèdre/Cinsaut)). Most likely, you’ll be eating turkey and leftovers for days afterwards, so you’ll have a chance to try them with American (or French) wines then.
Hope your turkey is tender and your stuffing a triumph!