Two principles should regulate any discussion of Thanksgiving wine:
1. No single wine will pair well with all the dishes at a typical Thanksgiving meal, and;
2. No single wine will please everyone at your table.
The cardinal sin in food and wine pairing is to serve a dry wine with sweet food. Sweet dishes will inevitably make a dry wine taste thin and sour. Since many Thanksgiving dishes have some sweetness, your dry wines will suffer. White turkey meat requires a light, delicate wine. Dark meat and mushroom stuffing requires a dry, bold, earthy wine. Most vegetables will need a wine that won’t amplify bitterness. No single wine can do all this work.
In light of those two principles, the best thing to do is open a variety of affordable wines and let people choose what they want to drink. However, if that sounds too spiritless and half-assed for your guests (or for your ego) you might try the following approaches:
— Serve a good, modestly priced sparkling wine like Toques et Clochers Crémant de Limoux. No one ever complains about being served sparkling wine even if it doesn’t pair perfectly with your dishes.
–Serve two wines: an off-dry Riesling from Germany’s Mosel region and an elegant Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara. Neither will work with all the dishes but both will be a good compromise.
–Or serve a quality apple cider such as Eric Bordelet’s Brut Tendre. This is an off-dry cider with autumnal flavors that comes closer than anything I’ve tried to a perfect Thanksgiving beverage.
And most of all remember, Thanksgiving embodies more important ideals than getting the wine and food pairing right.