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Complementing your flavors

Wed., Nov. 21, 2012

Challenge begins for choosing wines that pair best with your holiday feast

All is ready for your Thanksgiving feast. The turkey’s thawing in the refrigerator, the sweet potatoes are washed, and the pies are cooling on the racks.

But what about the wine? Red or white? Dry or sweet? Sparkling or not? These questions can vex even the most experienced host or hostess. Thankfully, local experts are on hand to help us sort out the chardonnay from the cabernet, and choose the wines that best complement the flavors of our holiday meal.

Drew Smith, wine steward at Huckleberry’s Natural Market, 926 S. Monroe St., said, “Thanksgiving is just about the hardest meal to pair wine with. You’ve got the tartness of cranberry and the sweetness of sweet potatoes and then there’s bread, meat, pickles …”

Josh Wade, owner of Nectar Tasting Room, 120 N. Stevens St. agreed. “There are a lot of different flavors at the table,” he said. “What you’re looking for are wines with high acidity but a good fruit finish.”

The choices are not as simple as red or white so Smith recommends serving a variety of vino throughout the meal.

“I like to greet my guest at the door with a glass of sparkling wine,” he said. While he favors the higher-end Veuve Cliquot, he said there are plenty of tasty champagnes that can fit any budget. “Segura Viudas from Spain is only $7 to $10 a bottle and it can go with virtually anything.”

After a glass of bubbly, Smith advises, “Go to white, to rosé, to red and finish with a dessert wine or port.”

Wade likes to start the meal with riesling. “Go with a dry riesling,” he said. He also recommends serving a hearty pinot noir. “I prefer a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. And yes, you can have both wines on the table at the same time.”

Wade said wines that may conflict with your holiday spread include jammy zinfandels or heavily oaked cabs.

For his first at-the-table offering, Smith serves a refreshing pinot gris or chardonnay, and like Wade, he says keep your white wine selection on the dry end of the taste spectrum.

When it’s time to introduce the red wine, a full-bodied pinot noir tops Smith’s list.

Because the flavors of the traditional Thanksgiving meal are so varied, it’s important to keep your palate clear in order to best savor each mouthful. “You’re looking for something that washes your mouth out before the next bite,” said Wade.

As the meal is concluded and guests linger at the table Smith recommends an unusual pomegranate wine. He said its light, fruity finish and pleasing tang make it “perfect for when you’re done eating the meal but not quite ready for dessert.”

When it is time for dessert Wade said a good rule is: “Make sure your wine is sweeter than your dessert.”

Smith recommends a nicely chilled muscat, while Wade says a late-harvest chenin blanc makes a great pairing for apple pie, and port is a good choice to accompany sweet and spicy pumpkin.

The most important advice these experts offer is simple. Number one: Let your palate be your guide. “Drink what you enjoy,” said Wade.

And number two: Don’t be afraid to experiment. Smith said, “The most exciting flavors happen when you break the rules.”

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