The Perfect Wine for Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is probably one of the most difficult meals to pair with wine. The Southwestern Wine Guy suggests a solution with a breakdown of what various wines have to offer.

If there is one holiday dinner nearly everyone wants to get right it has to be Thanksgiving. Often the head chef, Mom, has assigned duties to the rest of the brood, or the guests are each charged with bringing an appetizer, side, or dessert. It is one of the most collaborative meals most people experience. And then there are the choices for wine to match all the effort put into this one dinner.

What is the perfect wine to go with Thanksgiving? Surely there is a silver bullet of a wine that handles everything from canapés to pumpkin pie? In a word, no, that’s why pairing wines with the feast receives all the attention from wine experts that it does. If there are four appetizers, six sides and as many desserts, not to mention the way the bird is prepared, would that not call for multiple wines to accompany the mind-numbing choices?

Breaking it down, we have sparkling wines, white, rosé, red and dessert wines to pair and that already seems like a lot without going into specifics. Sparkling wines range from white to rosé and excel at pairing. Their effervescence stimulates the palate and brightens the mood. Sparklers are a great way to start the meal and can carry through to dessert. Choose ones that are crafted using methode Champenoise, or states fermented in the bottle on the label. They will stay sparkling longer and provide a better mouthfeel for pairing and pure enjoyment.

White wines without aggressive oak are best as their fruit-forward palate works better and good acidity for any wine is a must. French-style Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc all work well. Semillon and Pinot Blanc are harder to find, but go elegantly with the meal. Alsace Pinot Blanc will be the easiest to locate.

Rose wines are not a compromise wine if made as a rose and are contrasted by blush wines like white Zinfandel which are much harder to pair.

French Rosé from Provence, Tavel and Anjou add a visual and taste sparkle to the table.

Lighter-bodied reds with lower tannins and oak influence will please the red wine lovers without making the pairing challenging. Pinot Noir and Beaujolais are classic wines for this. Nouveau Beaujolais always comes out this time of year, and probably not coincidentally, and is unrestrained in its fruity mouthfeel.

Big red wines with higher alcohol, tannins and oak influence are difficult to pair, but most French reds are more subtle, with lower alcohol and designed to complement food. Burgundy wines are Pinot Noir-based, left bank Bordeaux use Cabernet Sauvignon, but blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc to achieve an elegant balance, while right bank wines feature Merlot and Cabernet Franc and a softer palate.

Taking home a six-pack or case of various wines will insure nearly everyone will be happy except for the beer drinker. For more information on wines for Thanksgiving, please click here.

About Jim Hammond, the Southwestern Wine Guy
Jim Hammond covers New Mexico wines in a wine blog (, and he also offers news and insights as the “Albuquerque Wine Examiner” on He is a wine columnist for ABQ Free Press and provides wine and beer pairing ideas to go along with featured recipes in New Mexico Magazine. Hammond is available to speak on New Mexico wines and also provide creative seminars or events to help people understand and appreciate New Mexico wines as well as wines of the world. Contact him at jim(at)southwesternwineguy(dot)com or visit his website, The Southwestern Wine Guy is active on Facebook, Twitter (#SWWineGuy) and LinkedIn

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Jim Hammond
since: 01/2010
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