8 tips for serving wine at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is not far away, and a key part of a successful and festive feast is making sure the right wines are on your table.

Between roasting a turkey and mashing potatoes, Thanksgiving can be a stressful meal for the host, so not having to worry about the wine will be a relief.

With that in mind, here are eight wine tips for making Thanksgiving a successful event.

No. 1: Begin with bubbles. Sparkling wine is perhaps the most versatile of food wines, and fortunately for us, plenty of good bubbly is made in the Pacific Northwest. We suggest starting off your Thanksgiving feast with a celebratory toast. As a bonus, it will pair beautifully with most of the food on the table.

No. 2: Got (enough) wine? Be sure to have plenty of wine. Caterers will tell you to budget a half-bottle of wine per person. That might be a bit much, but a gathering of family and friends is a great time to share the wines you’ve selected for the meal. If you have several half-empty bottles by the end of the meal, it’s easy enough to put a cork in them and enjoy the next day with the rest of the leftovers.

No. 3: Think pink. Roses are deliciously bright and bursting with fruit aromas and flavors. Dry roses in particular pair beautifully with turkey, mashed potatoes, salads and many other dishes on the table. Avoid white Zinfandel, which is little more than California Kool-Aid, and stick with a dry to slightly off-dry rose.

No. 4: Spice up life with variety. If a lot of family members and friends are coming over for Thanksgiving dinner, you will have a lot of different palates around the table. Try to provide many styles of wine.

For reds, consider Pinot Noir or Sangiovese, both of which are versatile food wines. For whites, Riesling or Gewürztraminer can be enjoyed by occasional wine drinkers, while Chardonnay is America’s favorite wine and has broad appeal.

No. 5: Put the cork in the Cab. Cabernet Sauvignon is the king of wines and the wine of kings, but it probably won’t pair well with much on your Thanksgiving table. It’s often a bold and tannic wine that will be better enjoyed with beef, so save it for your Christmas roast.

No. 6: In with the new. Are you saving an older red wine for a special occasion? Keep it in your cellar for a bit longer. Older wines are often delicate, and their nuances will be lost amid the din of a Thanksgiving meal. A special older wine should be the focus of a meal that is built around it. Instead, purchase newer wines with young, fresh flavors that will make this happy meal even more joyous.

No. 7: Get bogged down. Most wine snobs turn their noses up at fruit wines, but you’ll need to trust us on this one: cranberry wine. A few Northwest wineries make cranberry wine from fresh coastal fruit (Westport, Heymann, Cranberry Road are three in Washington). They tend to be a bit sweet, and they go amazingly well with the Thanksgiving meal. You owe it to yourself to give this a try.

No. 8: Go sweet or go home. What are you serving for dessert? Pumpkin pie? Apple pie? Regardless, your dessert wine should be sweeter than the dish or they will clash. We suggest a British Columbia ice wine, one of the great wines in the world.

Can’t get to B.C. or afford $50 for a half-bottle? There are plenty of choices south of the border (Kiona and Chateau Ste. Michelle are just two).

You’ll get roughly eight little pours out of a bottle, so plan accordingly.

Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman are the editors of Wine Press Northwest magazine.

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