The menu is planned and preparations have begun, but do you have your wine? We spoke with wine expert Alice Feiring of the Feiring Line to get her tips on what to buy for the big day.
1. Choose a wine that can stand on its own.
Feiring recommends a wine that is “delicious and sturdy enough” to be enjoyed without food. She suggests choosing a white or red “with structure and fruit.”
2. Don’t go crazy.
The focus of Thanksgiving is the food, and depending on the size of the crowd, you don’t need to get too extreme or expensive with your choices. Feiring says that some people can take wine pairing to extremes, but if you’re having a large crowd, not to worry so much.
With a small group of people, eight guests or less, you can go with a more serious wine because the menu will generally be more limited. “You can probably have a lot more fun,” says Feiring. For a dinner party of eight people, she suggests six or seven bottles, since Thanksgiving dinner is usually a long meal.
3. Make a statement.
Are you going to make a statement and choose an all-American wine? Feiring warns zinfandel can be “too powerful and alcoholic” but suggests a Finger Lakes riesling, which is “wonderful wine that’s so versatile with different foods.”
4. Choose something easy to drink.
“Edmond St. Johns makes a really beautiful, drinkable gamay,” says Feiring. The gamay fits in with the increasingly popular and “gulpable” beaujolais. She suggests skipping the beaujolais nouveau and opting for one from Morgon or Fleurie. An Oregon pinot noir is another great wine. Although traditionalists choose white wine for turkey, it’s not necessary.
For a deep-fried turkey, she suggests a high-acid wine, such as an Alsace or Finger Lakes riesling. Ask your wine-seller for an “off-dry” riesling or opt for a “non-oaky” chardonnay.
5. Keep the alcohol content low.
“People are going to be doing a lot of drinking, and you want to make it a little easier for them,” says Feiring. She recommends keeping the alcohol content under 13.5 percent. With the variety of food, higher alcohol content doesn’t always pair well with everything.
6. Start with a sparkler.
A sparkling wine is a festive way to start the party that makes everyone happy. It’s a lower alcohol drink that everyone can enjoy. Another alternative is a hard apple cider, which Feiring describes as “so American, so thematic and it tastes so good with food.” She recommends Bordelet for their apple and pear ciders. “It really does work well with all of the sides.”
7. For dessert, stick with something sweet.
“You don’t want something drier when the food sweet,” says Feiring. Pear cider works well, or choose a wine with the same amount of sweetness as the dessert. A really nice, refreshing option is the moscato d’asti, “especially if you’re going to have a lighter dessert that’s cream based,” she says, “It’s a nice little touch.”