Canadian Thanksgiving is upon us within a couple of weeks. This marks the unofficial start of the busiest wine consumption period of the year (October 1 – December 31). In fact the fourth quarter accounts for approximately 29% of total wine consumption versus 20% during the first quarter (January 1 – March 31). So one of the most frequent questions we get at WineCollective is what wine to pair with a dinner like Thanksgiving. While WineCollective packages always feature amazing wines that have diverse food pairing options, here are some specific varietal recommendations specifically for Thanksgiving!
Since one of the main features of a big celebratory meal like Thanksgiving is the variety of dishes served, we recommend choosing a wine which has versatility. So we’re not going to recommend a monster Cabernet Sauvignon which rings in at 14.9% alcohol.
Pinot Noir – Most quality Pinot Noirs have extreme versatility, drinking well on their own or pairing with a diverse range of food. A new world Pinot from New Zealand or Oregon may be more fruit forward than a Burgundy example, but should also have soft and approachable tannins. Avoid “huge” wines with alcohol levels of greater than 14% simply because they are a bit trickier to pair. A Pinot would pair beautifully with anything from fowl (goose, duck, and turkey) to fish (salmon) to a hearty vegetable dish.
Grenache – Go for a Rhône-styled wine here. The spiciness, acidity and body of the Grenache do well to offset a Flintstone sized turkey leg. Grenache is often blended with other varietals, and WineCollective has recently enjoyed Grenache/Carignan combinations (which is a little less traditional), but also look for a quality traditional French Grenache/Syrah blend.
Gewürztraminer – The default white wine for many at Thanksgiving is Chardonnay, and while there is nothing wrong with a good Chard (I’d recommend unoaked for a big feast), my favourite white at Thanksgiving is the Gewürztraminer from Alsace. If you haven’t had the chance to experience a traditional Gewürz there is no better time to take the leap. They have such huge versatility you could serve one before the meal with appetizers or even use it after the meal to replace port.
Chenin Blanc – This is a bit of a personal call here. We love to experiment and a quality, reasonably priced Chenin Blanc from South Africa will absolutely be a go-to white wine for me this year at Thanksgiving. The high levels of acidity pair well with food while the notes of apple, lemon, citrus and honey (with perhaps a touch of vanilla from the oak) would make this a well rounded addition to any food at Thanksgiving.
Don’t let this list limit you, there are other pairings that will work, Merlot, an Italian red-blend featuring Barbera and of course Bubbly! No one will complain if Champagne (or Prosecco or Cava) is present and they all would pair wonderfully with a big meal!