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Four Varietals to Try on Thanksgiving
For Thanksgiving, two wines generally come to mind - Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. However, there are many other wines to consider. This year’s Thanksgiving will most likely be different to Thanksgiving’s in the past, so why not change up your wine selections as well!
This varietal is an excellent selection for your Thanksgiving table. It’s fruit forward, yet hearty and tannic, with flavors of blackberry, cherry, plums, spice, and various intensities of oak. Next to the popularity of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel is one of America’s most popular Thanksgiving wine choices due to its bold nature, which pairs well with dark meat turkey as well as gravy. As good as this wine is with turkey, it also goes extremely well with a wide array of side dishes due to its ability to amplify warm spices like cinnamon, clove and allspice. Zinfandel is also the perfect wine to pair with cheese! The mild sweetness of the wine really mellows out the funk of aged cheeses like Gruyere, Havarti and Bleu while also bringing attention to their flavors.
Another red to bring out is Beaujolais Nouveau, which comes from France. Lighter in body compared to Zinfandel, these wines have a vibrant versatility that is great with a wide variety of your favorite holiday foods. Beaujolais is low in tannins, high in acidity, and typically consists of cranberry, raspberry, and tart cherry flavors, while also having some earthy tones. This light and refreshing wine pairs extremely well with everything, from brussels sprouts and cranberry sauce to fruits, cheeses, turkey and ham! Beaujolais Nouveau is released on the third Thursday of November every year, so make sure to grab a few bottles to enjoy throughout the holiday season!
Viognier is another great wine to serve. It is refreshing, crowd pleasing, and goes with an array of foods. A medium to full bodied white wine originating from the south of France (primarily the Rhone Valley), this is generally on the drier side. There are a few off dry styles, however, which are intended to accentuate the peachy aromas of the wine. Either style though would be great with a Thanksgiving dinner. This wine can handle slight spice and highly aromatic dishes, and the juicy stone fruit and floral aroma pairs perfectly with the tender white meat of turkey.
The creaminess of an oaked viognier pairs very well with buttery mashed potatoes, or even a nice cream-based dressing. Viognier also has a touch of natural sweetness which pairs well with honey baked ham, as well as root vegetable dishes that carry a touch of sweetness, such as candied yams or carrots. The wine helps to tone down the excess sweetness of the dishes and elevates the warm spices. It even transitions excellently from dinner to dessert. Speaking of, an oaked viognier pairs well with pumpkin pie because of its supporting flavors of warm spices, vanilla, and brown butter.
Another white wine that can jump from savory to sweet is Gewürztraminer. Pronounced ga-VERTZ-trah-MEE-ner, this wine from Alsace pairs excellently with a variety of Thanksgiving staples, like butternut squash soup. Medium bodied with flavors of lychee, tropical fruits, tree fruits, melons and citrus, the off dry style combined with the high alcohol content and the slightly sweet aroma allow it to pair well with any heat on the dinner table. In fact, 'Gewürz' actually means spice in German.
Paired best with dishes that are spicy, smokey, salty and boldly seasoned, Gewürztraminer goes very well with both smoked and roasted turkey, as well as gravy (due to the salt content), sausage stuffing (where the subtle sweetness of the wine can subdue any heat), roasted veggies that are on the sweeter side such as candied carrots, and mashed sweet potatoes.
This wine can even hold up to your typical Thanksgiving pies. Try it out with some warm apple pie and vanilla ice cream on top. Aromas of pineapple, apricot and honey playing in harmony with the baked apples along with the subtle aroma of toasted almonds help bring out the pie’s cinnamon and nutmeg. Don't like apple pie? This wine also pairs very well with a nice homemade pumpkin pie!
As you’re shopping for your Thanksgiving meal this year, keep these varieties in mind. Not only are they delicious, but perhaps your guests have not tried them before, and you could introduce them to a new flavor pairing. After-all, good food and wine always helps to bring people together, especially around the holidays.