Wines for Thanksgiving

November 13 00:00 2002 Print This Article

From tangy cranberry jelly, to gooey-sweet yams, to spicy stuffing and meaty turkey, the traditional Thanksgiving lineup surely qualifies as the most schizo menu of the year. For a sommelier like me, that spells major job security, as every year at this time the distress calls, faxes, emails and hits to my website start pouring in about what wine to pair with all those far-flung flavors.

The easiest answer is Zinfandel, the grape American vintners and wine drinkers have adopted as our own because, unlike the popular grapes Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, it doesnt have obviously French origins. (In truth, scientists have linked it to the Primitivo grape of southern Italy, but as weve adopted hot dogs, aka Frankfurters, we might as well claim Zin, too.)

Both versions, red and white (sometimes called blush-style), are worthy. Here are some buying tips to keep in mind:

White Zinfandel

Some people are snobby about this blush wine with a little sweetness, but as the varietal wine that converted a lot of screwcap drinkers, I give it credit. With its lively, refreshing style it could be your white wine offering, and will be appreciated by those at the table who arent into reds.

Red Zinfandel

This can range from easy-drinking, easy on the wallet, to intense and full-bodied (and more expensive). Your choice depends as much on your taste as your budget. If you like big, intense reds then go for it. But at Thanksgiving you may prefer to let the cooks efforts take center stage, in which case one of the more moderate-priced and styled versions will be perfect.

My other favorite styles for Thanksgiving, Sauvignon Blanc whites and Syrah reds, each have a style signature that beautifully complements the traditional Thanksgiving food lineup. Although there are boutique bottlings, with prices to match, you neednt pay a lot to get a good one.

Sauvignon Blanc

This white grape has a vibrant tanginess and slight pungency that shows tremendous versatility with all those flavors on the table. Some wineries use the name Fum Blanc on the labelsame thing.


This reds style signature is vibrant fruit flavor tinged with spiciness both savory spices like pepper, and sweet spices like cinnamon and clove. No wonder its such a great food partner! Some wineries use an alternate spelling, Shiraz.

For serving, I recommend you simply put the open bottles on the table and let guests help themselves to whatever they like. Experiment and have fun!

Andrea Immer, the author of Great Tastes Made Simple: Extraordinary Food and Wine Pairing for Every Palate, Great Wine Made Simple: Straight Talk from a Master Sommelier and Andrea Immers Wine Buying Guide for Everyone, is a graduate and the dean of wine studies at The French Culinary Institute in New York City and the wine columnist for Esquire. She is one of just ten women in the world to hold the title of Master Sommelier and was the first woman ever chosen Best Sommelier in America. Formerly the beverage director of Windows on the World, Immer lives in Stamford, Connecticut. Article appears courtesy of WineAnswers.

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Source: WineAnswers

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