Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love everything about the food-centric celebration, so over the next couple of weeks I’m going to be sharing my planning process! Today, let’s talk about the wine. Selecting a wine for the big meal can be a daunting and intimidating task. What pairs with the tart, bold flavors of cranberry sauce and the smooth, creamy profile of an herbaceous gravy? A versatile wine is ideal, but with so many varietals and appellations out there it’s hard to know where to begin to look. Luckily, there are experts who pair wine and food for a living! Earlier this week, I spoke with Jai Wilson, the incredibly personable and well-informed assistant wine director at the award-winning Jardinière restaurant. He shared his suggestions for perfect turkey day wine pairings.
With so much going on in the food department, start by keeping the wine simple. Choose one white and one red to pour throughout the entire meal. This may come as a surprise, but for the most complex and affordable wines, think beyond California.
Wilson is a huge fan of Rieslings and recommends pouring a dry Riesling from Alsace: “Riesling is clean, crisp, bright, and goes well with everything.” Unlike German Rieslings, which tend to be on the sweeter side, Alsatian Rieslings are generally characterized as being bone dry. Dry Rieslings are especially good with fatty dishes like charcuterie or stuffing heavy with sausage. Rieslings also have a lower alcohol content — which is a plus on a day where most will be marathon eating and drinking.
When it comes to reds, Wilson is sick of constantly serving the stereotypical Pinot Noir. Although it’s the go-to red for Thanksgiving, he suggests pouring another delicious, juicy, and drinkable crimson varietal, a Rosso di Montalcino. It’s a friendly red with a little more complexity than Pinot. The Italian region of Montalcino is mostly known for producing big Brunellos, but the area also makes excellent Rossos. Like Brunellos little spunky sister, Rossos di Montalcino are made from 100% Sangiovese grapes and are aged for a short amount of time, only 6 months to a year. The Rosso we tasted was superb with a medium body and delightful flavor; it would be fabulous paired with rich dark meat.
The final tip that Wilson provided is for pairing in general: match the color of the food to the wine. So when serving pumpkin pie, should you pour an orange wine? Absolutely! Try a Tokaji from Hungry.