There are as many approaches to the age old “Thanksgiving wine pairing conundrum” as there are ways to prepare a turkey and as anyone who has had to wash down a vinegar soaked salad with a rich, buttery Chardonnay will know, the path is fraught with peril. One school of thought suggests that, since Thanksgiving is an American Holiday American wines should be served (exclusively). Others subscribe by the school of thought that, given the time of year, Beaujolais Nouveau is the answer. And yet others proclaim that Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity for Gewürztraminer to shine. The list goes on and on – so much so that it is enough to make one’s head swirl.
On the occasions when I am asked to pick out the wines for our Thanksgiving dinner, I am reminded of the legend of Alexander the Great and the Gordian Knot. In appropriately heroic fashion, rather than attempt to solve this puzzle through the traditional means, Alexander draws his sword and hacks his way through the impossible tangle of rope. The reality is, unless the meal you prepare is woefully bland, the likelihood of finding a wine that will pair with every dish is next to nil. Sometimes the most complex problems require the simplest of answers.
Since Thanksgiving falls in the latter half of the calendar, it is a great opportunity to revisit those wines that you have enjoyed throughout the year – a greatest hits list of sorts. I try to ensure broad categories are covered: at least one sparkling, two whites, two reds, and a Madeira to serve with the pumpkin pie (the latter is a requirement of my older brother, lest he be forced to dole out a stern reprimand). Otherwise, I try not to limit what gets opened at the table. Inevitably there are hits and misses, but by and large this tactic has served me well.
It has been my experience having an array of bottles of different origins and styles is a sure way to bring the most out of our Thanksgiving feast. It gives folks a chance to mix and match, to see what wine works best with which dish, or to simply explore. Now wine, like so much else in life, is a limited resource, so unless I purchased multiple bottles, there is a good chance the specific wine I enjoyed earlier in the year will no longer be available. Fortunately there are some excellent resources out there that can help you find either the specific bottle, or something very comparable (and perhaps even better).
So now you may be wondering what the Bradshaw household will be drinking this year? While I haven’t assembled the final list due to a busy schedule, there are some usual suspects who find their way to the table time and again like D’Angerville, Chateau Palmer, J.J. Prum, Vilmart, and Jermann (in case my sister insists that Spaghetti Carbonara be served).