As long as we are eating and drinking, then the subject of wine and food pairing is always lurking close by. We manage to get through most of the year, excepting the odd special occasion, without too much anxiety about it.
Then Thanksgiving, our national day of feasting, comes along and suddenly we’re concerned about exactly which wine is best for fraternizing with a 5,000 calorie avalanche.
It seems counter intuitive to call the traditional Thanksgiving dinner a light meal. In spite of the overall massive caloric bombardment, most of the actual foods are lighter, like turkey, for example. Turkey just doesn’t carry the weight that a roast, prime rib or steak-centered dinner carries.
There are two important wine and food principles that will serve any Thanksgiving host well. The first is texture, or weight. Match the weight of the wine to the weight of the food. That means medium-bodied or lighter wines will partner better than full-bodied wines. The Thanksgiving table is not the place for big-boy Cabernets or oaky Chardonnays. You can have either wine, but look for lighter, non-oaked versions. Better yet, take the opportunity to start with a different varietal altogether.
The second principle is even more important. Foods that are sweet make wines taste drier, more astringent, more bitter, more tannic, and less fruity. That matters because many of the traditional side dishes often have a bit of sweetness to them. Canned cranberry sauce, candied yams, or even the stuffing, all have a sweetness factor. They turn full-bodied wines, either red or white, mean and nasty.
That is why a wine with a little residual sugar is such a great match. The holiday foods make the wines taste drier but because they have some sugar to give up, slightly sweet wines remain balanced and fruity.
For this year’s Thanksgiving dinner I have selected five local wines, that while all quite different, all have something in common, plus they show a great range of what our region can do.
All five wines are light to medium-bodied, all have well-balanced acidity, a must for food pairing, and all are fruity and deliciously expressive. Try something uniquely delicious for your holiday table this year and spread the cheer.
Rod Byers, CWE, is a Certified Wine Educator and wine writer as well as a California State Certified Wine Judge. You can find information about his upcoming
series of Sierra College Kaleidoscope Wine Classes starting in February at www.pinehillwineworks.com and he can be reached at (530) 913-3703.