What to Drink with Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s almost that time again… time for a day filled with tradition, thanks-giving and copious amounts of eating!  But while everyone is discussing what to cook for Thanksgiving dinner, what we drink with this very special meal can often be overlooked.  If your Thanksgiving is anything like mine, it involves a day of togetherness – cooking coupled with lounging during the day, sitting down to a labor of love in the evening.  Since I was given the book ‘What to Drink with What You Eat‘ by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, I have become increasingly interested in pairing wine & food.  This curiosity has led me to try a variety of new wines – varietals from which I would have otherwise shied away.  Thanksgiving day can be complex, early gatherings lasting late into the night.  I’ve compiled my suggestions for what to drink on Thanksgiving below – a variety of choices that are sure to please everyone in your family, no matter how finicky their taste.

Day drinking
~Grab a Growler~
Z loves to run across the street to fill up our Against the Grain growler with one of their ever-changing, hand-crafted brews.  Constantly experimenting, Against the Grain‘s creations span the beer-spectrum and they will be able to guide you to the perfect offering to pair with both your football and your turkey.  BBC – the Bluegrass Brewing Company – is another great option, offering seasonal beers and growlers in which to take them home.  While they don’t offer growlers, you will have no trouble at all finding something to share at The Louisville Beer Store, a fantastic spot in Louisville’s NuLu neighborhood.  Finally, when we’re in Lexington, there is no better place to celebrate the beers of the world than at The Beer Trappe.  They too will be happy to help you select your ideal Thanksgiving beer, in bottle or growler form.

~Bubbly – all day, any day~
In my mind, there is never a bad time for a glass of sparkling wine.  Be it champagne, prosecco, cava or California-made, there is an instant sense of celebration in every effervescent sip.  One of my favorite ways to serve cava or prosecco is with a variety of juices and pureed fruit, allowing guests to create their own cocktail.  Use my bellini recipe as inspiration and go from there – I’d love to hear what you come up with!  I highly recommend holding back one bottle to toast with before dinner, sans fruit garnish.  One of my special-occassion go-to’s is Schramsberg.  Their blanc de blancs offering can be found for under $40.  If you are lucky enough to find their brut rose make sure to grab a bottle – outstanding!  Want to know more about Champagne?  Check out my recent post ‘Champagne: Five Things to Know.’

~Happy Beaujolais Nouveau Day~
Just like Thanksgiving, it only comes one time of year – Beaujolais Nouveau Day!  Beaujolais Nouveau wine, from the Beaujolais region of France, is celebrated as the first release of the year, after the harvest in the vineyards is complete and it is time to commence with the holiday season.  By French law, Beaujolais Nouveau is released on the third Thursday of November and not one minute sooner.  It is an extremely young, fruity and light red wine, and meant to be so.  A celebratory drink, Beaujolais Nouveau is not intended for aging but to be enjoyed at this moment – the 2013 bottle, that is.  And it happens to compliment Thanksgiving flavors beautifully.  Bright and fun on the palate, it doesn’t overwhelm and offers refreshment during an otherwise heavy meal.  Make sure to serve slightly chilled and allow it to take you from day to night.  Oh and the best part?  It sells for under $13!

As it always is with family, everyone has their preferences and tastes can vary greatly.  I recommend offering both a red and a white wine, setting each place-setting with two glasses.  Encourage your guests to sample a little of each wine with the food.  This is my favorite way to pick out distinct flavors in a wine as it’s character always stands out when countered with another glass.  Of course, any leftover bubbly, beer or Beaujolais Nouveau are welcome to the party.  For those wines that, I believe, bring out the best in Thanksgiving dinner, I recommend the following:

But only if it has seen minimal oak contact.  Chardonnay with oak treatment is luxurious and rich, often described as buttery.  Delightful with the right food, it could stand to be overpowering and uncomplimentary to the turkey and endless variety of sides that come with this annual meal.  Un-oaked chardonnay is softer, lighter on the palate but still slightly tart with green apple notes.  Check out my previous posts on Chardonnay – All Things Chardonnay and A Lesson in White Burgundy – for more tips.  As for what to buy, I recommend Au Bon Climat Chardonnay.  At around $20/bottle it would make a lovely addition to any Thanksgiving dinner.

~Pinot Noir~
If you ask me, pinot noir plays nice with just about everyone.  Vibrant and full, it remains slender on the palate and generally offers cherry notes while remaining dry.  It will stand up to a rich potato gratin, while still complimenting the cranberry sauce.  Pinot noir will allow the turkey to shine (it is the turkey’s day, after all) and will offer refreshment after a hearty bite of stuffing.  Personally, I enjoy Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir, available in Louisville at Westport Whiskey and Wine.

Disclaimer: this is one of those new wines I mentioned at the beginning of this post.  Gewurztraminer and I, we’ve only recently met.  But I can already tell it will be a beautiful friendship.  In my reading, it was noted as pairing exceptionally well with spicy foods.  It also has a beautiful bouquet, presenting itself as soon as you pop the cork.  Floral with herbal notes, I really enjoyed the bottle of The Furst Gewurztraminer Z and I recently shared over dinner.  Ask your local wine merchant for their recommendation.  This grape is powerful and crosses many angles of the flavor-spectrum, making it a great partner to Thanksgiving dinner, when countless dishes are displayed, moving from sweet (sweet potatos) to rich (gravy).  It will counter certain food, exposing more flavor, while complimenting other dishes, letting them shine.  Go out on a limb with gewurztraminer and keep an open mind.  It’s good for you!

I would also like to take this opportunity to say that I am thankful to YOU – my foodie-friends.  Foodie-Girl is now two-years old and I could not be more grateful for all of the love and support you have shown me.  On this Thanksgiving I raise my glass to YOU – Cheers!

Comments 1

  1. Anonymous

    Totally agree with the Chard and Pinot Noir suggestions – although our tradition is a Zin – American wine for an American holiday. But love the Gewurz idea. A great food-friendly wine, so makes sense.

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