Let me level with you. Do not fret over pairing wines with food this Thanksgiving. Most books, guides, magazines, or blogs will rehash the same tired rules: Beaujolais or Pinot Noir with pork or turkey, cab with steak, white with fish.
This advice overgeneralizes matters. What if your favorite producer decided to pop their Burgundy into new barrels one year? What if you went all Martha Stewart on the bird and brown sugar-glazed it instead of brining, or became completely “rebellious”:
In the end, wine is basically alcoholic fruit. Most will clean your palate well enough for the next bite of turkey. Color, variety, region, and age matter, but they usually will not make or break a meal. Worse, one wine cannot survive the plethora of dishes.
The hardest wine pairing of all, honestly, is with soylent green:
Yes, people. Now, I am not encouraging matching wine with subterfuged cannibalism on an industrialized national scale. No. It’s those pesky live ones that present the problem. How the heck do you keep anyone happy?
Every guest shows up with deep-seated vinous-neuroses: “I only like reds”, “I think I’m allergic to reds…from everywhere but Chianti”, “rosés remind me of getting dumped at prom…and brussel sprouts”. You cannot win.
But we can stumble toward passability together.
1 Know Thyself:
Whatever you open, make sure you would drink it. How else will you survive the night? You might even have to talk about it. Worse, you will offend others by matching them to a cheap, horrid wine (regardless of how cheap or horrid the people are). Your wine holds a mirror up to yourself, guests, or hosts. Reflect well upon yourself and bring what you like.
2 One is the Loneliest Number
I cannot tell you how many meals I have brought a bottle to and found it corked, or worse, just plain odd. Confusion reigns supreme. The meal dies. Do not distract from those awkward political/religious/child/relationship-status conversations. So bring two. You will look generous. You will double your chances of keeping that anti-rosé person happy.
3 Split the Middle
Do not bring/open the best, most expensive, high scoring wine in the world. Uncle Joe will gulp it down. Auntie Sue will hate it and add ice cubes. Or no one will care and you will cry. Aim for drinkable, pleasant, and forgettable. Forgettable is your friend. You want talk to dwell on why you haven’t married yet, right? So buy wines that step your game into the teens.
4 Palate Conscious
Like above, avoid extremes in style. Big alcohol, big tannins, big oak, huge bodies, high acid, high sweetness, and conversely, thin, limp, weak wines please few and piss off most. So, strike a balance. What wine pairs best with most people? Medium everything reds from moderate climates, such as Pinot Noir Central Coast, CA, or Oregon seem safe. Recent warm vintages in Beaujolais, Burgundy, and the Loire make Northern France more approachable. Whites such as minimally oaked Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Chenin Blanc are all placidity. I adore showy and austere whites like Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, but these are best kept. Luckily, mid teen prices will also limit stylistic extremes.
5 Everyone Loves Bubbly
This is a celebration. A mid-tier Cava, Crémant (de Loire, Limoux, or Bourgogne), or Californian fizz like Roederer or Chandon says, “thanks for slaving in the kitchen all day”. Alcohol contents tend to be lower (so less swearing/lawsuits). Bubbly also works with any food if glasses carry into the meal. You can splurge on Champagne, but be warned, uncle Joe might chug the bottle.
6 Bring Beer
Give up. This is America.
Anywhichway, enjoy these holidays as best you can. My advice: keep drinking and pair off with the best person you can find.
This is my submission for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #MWWC21