Just one white and one red? Not at our Thanskgiving. Get a variety of inexpensive bottles, and let your guests dirty as many glasses as they want. (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune)

Just one white and one red? Not at our Thanskgiving. Get a variety of inexpensive bottles, and let your guests dirty as many glasses as they want. (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune)

Serving wine on Thanksgiving? Pretty much anything goes

Since the food is the focus for the Thanksgiving table, the pressure is off for wine pairing.

  • By Michael Austin Chicago Tribune
  • Wednesday, November 13, 2019 1:30am
  • Life

By Michael Austin / Chicago Tribune

I knew wine was special long before I ever had my first sip of it.

The stuff had to be special because when I was a kid, it was always served in a carafe — never in its own bottle — and on Thanksgiving, a carafe or two stood among rarely seen china bowls and silver platters on a white tablecloth.

After my first sip of wine, the thing I had known for sure — that wine was special — came into serious question. Only many years later, when I returned to wine as an adult, did I come to appreciate its taste. My initial belief had been right all along — wine was special.

Even on non-holiday nights, when our kitchen table was crowded with plastic tubs of cottage cheese and sour cream, and bottles of ketchup and salad dressing, if there was wine on the table, it was in a carafe. Red or white, the carafe had nothing to do with the traditional reasons for decanting. The carafe was for aesthetics. Why, especially on Thanksgiving, would you want to look at a wine bottle and label — the commercial package that once occupied a supermarket shelf?

My, how things have changed. Now, all these years later, my family displays wine bottles on our Thanksgiving table like they’re trophies. You won’t see any commercial packaging, even on our table of appetizers, but you’ll see wine bottles in many shapes and sizes scattered about as if they’re part of an adult Easter egg hunt. We want to see those labels — not to “ooh” and “ahh” at, but to pull information from — especially if we like the wine. Wine is no longer anonymous for us and hasn’t been for a long time.

Isn’t it a relief to know, despite all of our wine-pairing precision, that on Thanksgiving, pretty much anything goes? There is simply too much flavor and texture to put your wine choices in a box.

Bring the fruit and acidity, do away with harsh tannins and high alcohol, and whatever you pick will do just fine. Have some dessert wines on hand, and don’t skimp on the sparkling wine. It’s a celebration. Remember that after the feast (at least according to my experience) there will be lots of random drinking followed by rudderless snacking. Have a good variety of wine on hand for that. Pick American wines on this American holiday, but also save space for some international selections.

Serve that cranberry sauce straight out of the can for an ironic twist, or arrange it on a crystal dish in a nod to Rockwellian tradition. Either way, it will look great next to your wine bottles.

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