With Thanksgiving looming, you may be pondering what sort of wine or wines to serve with your holiday feast. The best piece of advice I can give you about choosing wine for Thanksgiving—or any other holiday—is don’t fret. Holiday dinners are all about convening with friends and family for good company and camaraderie. This is not a time to concern yourself with impressing your guests. Relax.
I rarely spend big money on wine for Thanksgiving. What I look for is versatility, rather than prestige. The Thanksgiving meal is not the place to ponder the virtues of world-class Bordeaux; rather, it’s a time to embrace the everyday goodness of simpler wines with what is, after all, rather simple food. There’s nothing especially complicated about roast turkey and mashed potatoes.
So, I recommend drinking whatever wine you like. If you want to drink Champagne with your turkey, by all means do so! The range of foods served at a typical Thanksgiving dinner pretty much pre-empts any notion of perfect food and wine matches. There’s a case to be made for unoaked Chardonnay at Thanksgiving, just as you could argue the virtues of Riesling, Pinot Noir and Beaujolais, among others. So again, try to choose a versatile wine that will play nicely with a broad spectrum of food flavors rather than a powerhouse or exotic wine.
Regardless of what I serve at the Thanksgiving table—and again, that will probably wind up being whatever I can find on sale this week—I do like to greet my drinking guests with an aperitif when they arrive. Since a lot of wine always gets consumed at my place throughout Thanksgiving day, I often choose to kick things of with something a little different: Lillet. Lillet is an aperitif vermouth made in Bordeaux. It’s a tad bitter, although not as bitter as it used to be; the quinine content of Lillet was reduced in 1985. I prefer to serve Lillet Blanc ($17) chilled and straight up on ice or with a splash of soda water and a simple twist of orange peel.
For this year’s Thanksgiving, however, I’m going to be greeting my guests with bubbly. That’s because I recently discovered a delightful new sparkling wine from Spain aptly named Flare ($11). Flare is not a typical Spanish cava but rather a low-alcohol, fizzy Spumante-style sparkling wine called espumoso de muscatel. At only 7.5 percent alcohol, you can treat your guests to glasses of Flare before dinner without everybody getting sloshed. And don’t worry about your aunt who hates dry Champagne. This is anything but. It’s a sweet, fizzy party in the mouth—a festive way to get Thanksgiving started. Trust me; you’re going to dig Flare.
Here’s another approach to choosing wine for Thanksgiving: Since at Thanksgiving we ought to be mindful of those less fortunate, why not buy wines from wineries who donate a portion of their profits to charities? The first that comes to my mind is Humanitas. When you purchase Humanitas wines, a portion of the profits are given to charitable organizations such as America’s Second Harvest, Habitat for Humanity and Reading is Fundamental. And the proceeds from Humanitas wines don’t go to a national headquarters somewhere but are distributed right in the community where the wine was sold. You can find Humanitas Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($14) here locally.
Another charitable choice is Vinum Cellars’ PETS Petite Sirah and Rosé, which donates to charities such as the San Francisco SPCA and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research Fund. For a discussion of other charitable wineries, check out the “Charitable Wine” article at WineLoversPage.com.