There are a lot of things that come with November: sweater weather, high school football season, too many leaves to rake. But the best day of the month comes on the fourth Thursday – Thanksgiving!
The legend of Thanksgiving is based on a feast that occurred in 1621 with some of the first settlers and the Indigenous People from the Wampanoag. George Washington actually declared the first recognized Thanksgiving in 1789 when he wished to build morale among the colonies after a hard-fought Revolutionary War and express gratitude for a newly ratified Constitution.
In the wine business, Thanksgiving is our Super Bowl. Choosing wines that pair well with people’s dinners is really a favorite part of our jobs and Thanksgiving allows us to really flex. This month we show off our skills and ask certified sommelier and field wine manager for Savannah Distributing Kate White for some of her favorite Turkey Day wines.
First things first, we have to consider what we drink before we drink. What wines pair well with cooking, what wine works while we put together our award-winning tablescape, and maybe what gives us the courage to face our uncle’s inquisition?
Kate’s go-to is bubbles. Cava, Cremant d’Alsace Rose, and of course, Champagne.
“Everyone knows bubbles pair well with festivities, but don’t overlook how well they pair with the grunt work of preparing the meal. Remember it’s important to have a nice reward for kitchen helpers, especially the ones who roll up their sleeves to wash the gnarly pots and pans. I pour them the finest I have to offer.”
Not only does sparkling wine put us in a great mood, it also pairs well with appetizers like shrimp cocktail, stuffed mushrooms, and Katie’s husband’s traditional dip made with cream cheese, ketchup and horseradish. Kate suggests Allimant Laugner Cremant d’Alsace Rose, and any Vilmart & Cie Champagne. For Cava, Katie loves Pere Mata ‘Cupada 21’, Brut Nature.
Now let’s talk turkey! The most important component of the table is the bird. Everyone has their own twist, be it fried, smoked, brined or tofurkey, it is still white meat and luckily, this makes it rather easy to think of wines to gobble up. Katie’s favorite is Chardonnay, whether it’s a rich California style or a tropical, elegant Chablis, this grape’s acidity and fruit-forward palate really accentuates the main course. Try Sandhi Central Coast Chardonnay for its subtle creaminess, flinty undertones and ripe pear and apple notes. For red, Gamay is a go-to, especially if they come from their birthplace of Beaujolais. The complimenting acidity, low tannins and juicy mouthfeel really balances with white meat. Kate suggests a classic from Perrachon, from the cru of Juliénas.
Another table staple is the damn ham! Kate suggests rosé from Tavel. These classic wines contain grapes like Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault and have a beautiful vibrant hue, red wine complexity and definite notes of red berries and stony minerality that cuts right through the fat. Sarah will be pouring Hobo Wine Co. ‘Camp’ Zinfandel. This wine has all of the juicy red fruits that complement a brown sugar glaze and enough acid to balance out the savory.
When we are thinking about the sides, it is important to remember that there are a lot of flavors going on. Kate suggests, “because Thanksgiving meals can be complicated in breadth of flavors and people consuming the meal, I like to stay with generally food friendly wines and non polarizing flavor profiles. I’m shopping for a wine that will play diplomatically with turkey, ham, or turducken. Bonus points if it stands a chance to pair with Aunt Suzanne’s annual wildcard side dish.”
Options here include: Riesling (hear us out!) When you ask Somm what their favorite wines are, you will often hear Riesling and Thanksgiving is a perfect time to explore what this beloved grape can do. First, look for a wine that says dry or specifically ‘Troken.’ These wines are not the sugar ridden blue bottles that everyone fears, rather higher in acid, rich in mineral and versatile with cutting saltiness, balancing spice and complimenting heavy seasoning. Katie will be serving Lingenfelder ‘Bird Label’ Riesling from Pfaltz, Germany. Sarah also loves Seppeltsfield Eden Valley Riesling from Barossa, Australia for its lemon-lime acid and honeyed mouthfeel.
Another white suggestion is wines made from the grapes of the Rhône Valley. This French region grows predominantly Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc, but in other parts of the world, these combinations have been duplicated. The blend brings out balanced acidity, ripe stone fruits, and a honeyed richness that compliments white meats, baking spices and anything rich. Kate suggests two South African optins: Kumusha ‘Flame Lilly’ or Avondale ‘Jonty’s Ducks’ Pekin White.
For reds, Pinot Noir is the classic suggestion. This wine’s bright acidity and versatility is a no-brainer when it comes to complimenting the variety of dishes on your table. Whether the earthiness of Old World Pinot or the fruity and juicy New World options, Pinot is a crowd pleaser for even the most fickle guest at the table. Katie loves Domaine René Leclerc Bourgogne and Kate loves The Vice Pinot Noir from Carneros, California and Sarah is serving Fossil & Fawn Willamette Valley, Oregon Pinot Noir.
No matter what, this holiday is about sharing a meal with the ones who are most important. When we asked Kate about her most favorite pairing her answer was “any decent wine and chillin’ with my dad, turns out sharing pairs well with most wine.”
The reason we all work in wine is the camaraderie that it brings. The conversations around the table, the experimentation with different flavors and the stories that these wines tell are why we do what we do. This is truly why this holiday is a favorite – it allows us to expand our customers palates while making them look good to the in-laws. Choosing the perfect wines fills our cup. Cheers to family, both blood and chosen, great wines and a moist bird.