Editor’s Note: This column is sponsored by Georgetown Square Wine and Beer (10400 Old Georgetown Road).
The last thing people need during the holidays is extra stress, especially when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner. Picking a wine or a beer to go with dinner should be just as easy as picking out a turkey from the grocery store; you just need to know how much.
Most wine and craft beer bloggers and columnists can write all day long about the perfect pairing for a Thanksgiving meal, as I did last year. This year I’m going to take a different approach and simplify it as much as possible.
A typical dinner table on Thanksgiving encompasses many flavors, from sweet cranberry sauce to rich, savory gravy. No single wine is going to work with everything on the table, but there are a few go-to varietals that will pair well with these traditional eats.
I also have a feeling there will be more craft beer on the table than years past. Guests of hosts will certainly bring their favorite six-pack, bomber, or a filled growler to share with everyone. This time of year is great for craft beer as well. Some of the booziest stouts, barley wines and winter warmers are just being released.
As for wine, the traditional red that is versatile enough for everything on the table is a nice Pinot Noir.
I am biased towards Oregon pinots based on the wine’s earthiness, smoothness and umami flavor, but a nice California pinot from Sonoma or Carneros will go great too. I can put Beaujolais in this category too because of its light, easy drinking nature. If you or your guests are not pinot lovers, Zinfandel or a Spanish Grenache are great alternatives. Their fruity nature and high alcohol content will pair well with the variety of dishes — and will calm the nerves.
A traditional white wine that pairs very well with turkey day is Riesling. Riesling’s natural flavors of apple, apricot, honey and its clarifying acidity give it a significant pairing edge with the likes of sweet potatoes, turkey meat, and spice-laden or herb-filled stuffing.
If I were to choose a Riesling for dinner, I would definitely choose a Riesling from the Alsace region of France. Rieslings from Alsace are elegant and balanced with the perfect amount of sweetness that finishes dry and crisp. I can also recommend a nice full-bodied, buttery chardonnay from the Napa Valley. Chardonnay has always been a go-to in any dinner situation and is a crowd pleaser.
If you are looking for bubbles to make dinner more festive, the choices are endless. Even though sparkling wine is popped for special occasions, most sparklers pair great with traditional Thanksgiving food. Bottles may vary in style, body and sweetness, but a good dry Brut goes nicely with almost anything. You can always go with a Californian Brut or a soft Italian Prosecco. But if you want to impress the dinner table, I always recommend a bottle of Veuve Clicquot (on sale for $39.99).
For the craft beer drinkers, the stronger the better (this is easy). Sit back and enjoy football with a nice glass of Belgium strong ale in one hand, and some delicious finger food that just came out of the oven. If Belgium strong ale isn’t your thing, grab a six-pack of American Barley wine, imperial or double IPA, or some winter seasonal from your favorite brewery. Strong ale goes extremely well with Thanksgiving dinner. A hearty Thanksgiving meal with a hearty high alcohol content brew sounds extremely appetizing to me.
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