The complication inherent in successfully pairing wines at Thanksgiving dinner is that the whole point of Thanksgiving dinner is to have a thousand of your favorite different dishes in one meal, and wines that pair well with some dishes do not pair well with others.
Nobody wants their dining euphoria stunted by the wrong wine pairing, and fewer still want to limit themselves to focusing on half of the dishes because that's what goes with their wine.
So do you keep 70 glasses of wine by your plate depending on your latest bite? (This is actually brilliant and there will be no judgment from Palace Party if you commit to this route.) If you're a real connoisseur, you could serve yourself in courses and pair for each course. Realistically, the strategy that will suit most is probably to bring that 70-glass attack down to a well-reasoned 5 glasses. Specifically, you'll want 1 pre-dinner warm up, up to 3 glasses to choose from during your meal, and 1 for dessert/your impending food coma. So now let's move on to picking those 5.
A few bits of advice that everyone agrees on:
1) Go for wines with high-acidity. They will help cleanse your palate so you can continue tasting your feast.
2) Aim for low-tannin wines. Dry and bitter isn't your best bet today.
3) A bit of sweetness is going to go great with your feast--welcome it!
4) Buttery and creamy notes are also going to compliment your meal well.
5) No oak. Even the experts who disagree with each other on most things agree on this point. Oak flavors are not your friend today.
6) Start and end with something bubbly.
The most common suggestions from sommeliers and wine connoisseurs tend toward fruity reds for the compliment, and sweet whites for the contrast. Pinot Noir is a far and away favorite for the Thanksgiving meal, Gewürztraminer and Riesling are suggested nearly as often, Zinfandel, Shiraz (Syrah), Pinot Gris, and Grenache are all also suggested with some frequency. Chardonnay is loved by some, hated by others; if you do choose a chardonnay, whatever you do, no oak. And if it's important to your holiday spirit on this American holiday, you can absolutely achieve your wine pairing dreams with American wines--as our suggestions will be.
1) The Warm Up. It should be bubbly and celebratory. This is pre-food, so your favorite sparkling wine will do. Just remember: avoid dry, and go for something light with a touch of sweet, like a Prosecco.
We suggest: Schramsberg 2012 Crémant Demi Sac ($40) or a Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut, Non-Vintage ($26).
2) The First Feast Pairing--The Red. Look for acidic, bold, fruity, and spicy. A Zinfandel, Grenache, Shiraz, or Pinot Noir will steer you right.
We suggest: Sleight of Hand Cellars 2014 Psychedelic Syrah ($60), a Runquist Massoni Ranch Zinfandel ($24), or Three Sticks Santa Rita Hills The James Pinot Noir 2012($64).
3) The Second Feast Pairing--The Bridge. This will span the distance between your red and your white. Look for a Rosé.
We suggest Sanford 2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir ($23).
4) The Third Feast Pairing--The White. Look for creamy, buttery, and light. Touches of sweet fruit and nuttiness are also good here. A Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, and bolder Riesling will serve you well here, and maybe even the controversial Chardonnay.
We suggest: Dierberg Drum Canyon Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 ($45), or the Chateau Ste. Michelle "Eroica" Riesling ($22).
5) The Dessert. Aim for sweet; this is going with your pie and needs to not taste bitter (less sweet) in comparison. You'll want a sweet Riesling, or a Moscato.
We suggest: Black Star Farms 2013 Riesling A Capella Ice Wine ($95), or a fun, flirty Allegro Moscato ($10).
And there you have it! With a mere 5 glasses, you, too, can have a wine pairing experience that brings your Thanksgiving dinner to the next level.
Photo credit: The Culinary Cook