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  • Theresa Downs

How To Pair Wine with Your Thanksgiving Feast!

OMG, have you looked at a calendar? It's almost Christmas! Well, not really, but I thought I'd get a jump on Thanksgiving since it's right around the corner. Here's some food for thought when deciding your Thanksgiving menu.

It can be a little daunting to plan a wine menu for Thanksgiving dinner because of the different foods associated with it. Trying to pair a wine that compliments the turkey, mashed potatoes, or Aunt Bessy's green bean casserole (well, she likes it) shouldn't even be on your list to consider. Pick the star of your dinner, usually the main dish, and figure out the best wine.

Some basics to ponder when picking that wine:

1. Rich wines, like rich foods

Rich white wines are medium to full body usually have a bit of oak aging and more complex flavors. What does that mean in English? It means that these wines have a flavor profile of less fruit and more taste of vanilla, butter, brioche, cream, and dried fruit to begin with. They also have a creamy mouthfeel.

Rich red wines are high in alcohol and glycerin and have complex flavors and an oaky vanilla character. Alcohol adds oomph to wine and a sense of richness and creaminess.

2. Earthy foods like earthy wines

This one is somewhat self-explanatory. Pairing foods like mushrooms with an earthy wine like an Italian Barolo works great because the rustic quality of each food enhances the other food (I think of wine as a food).

3. Acid likes acid.

A wine with a lot of acid, like sparkling wine, likes acidic foods, think oysters, or tart salad dressings.

4. Alcohol accentuates heat

Alcohol increases the sensation of heat or spice in foods; it is important to remember because unless you really like spicy food. Pay attention to the alcohol content in a particular wine. Any wine with an alcohol content rating of 13.5% or higher means the wine falls into the highish category.

5. Wine should be sweeter than the dessert.

Pair sweet wines with less sweet food or fall victim to "wedding cake syndrome," where the wine tastes sour because of the sweet cake.

Here we go (and we'll keep it simple).

A rich white wine will work with just about any food that will grace your Thanksgiving table. Since Thanksgiving turkey is usually lavishly embellished with butter, it's more opulent than your everyday turkey, so it meets the richness criteria. The same white wine will work with mashed potatoes, vegetables (particularly if the butter hasn't been spared), scalloped potatoes, basically anything with butter and cream. Who scrimps at Thanksgiving?

Which wine to choose? Chardonnay would be your best choice. And, as much as I love French white whites, I think a California Chardonnay would be your best bet. Look for the term "Malolactic Fermentation" on the label – most wines that go through this process will state so on the back of the label. (Malolactic Fermentation is the process that converts the malic acid present in all wines to lactic acid. Wines that have gone through this process are creamy and buttery, hence lactic or milk). Be sure to have enough wine on hand because you can serve this wine with appetizers of creamy dips, nuts, or dried fruit.

For red wine drinkers (of which I am one), consider a low-tannin wine such as Pinot Noir, Grenache, or Cote Du Rhone (a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre) all will pair beautifully with turkey, lamb, or chicken. Switch it up a notch if you plan on serving meat, such as prime rib. Prime rib requires a heavier-duty wine, so look at Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah to compliment your meal.

For pie or a crème based dessert, stick with a late harvest wine; these wines, usually made with Riesling, Chardonnay, Semillon, or a combination of several different white wines, tend to be very sweet and will solve any issue with a too-sweet dessert.

How many different wines should you buy? I would keep it very simple and purchase no more than two different types (a bottle of red and a bottle of white, as they say).

How much wine should you buy? A 750ml bottle of wine will generously serve about four glasses, five glasses if you're a little frugal so plan accordingly.

So, there you have it; keep some simple rules in mind, and you'll be the toast of Thanksgiving!

Getting a jump on Thanksgiving wishes, we all at Wine By Appointment (well, all three of us, if you count the dog) wish you a very happy, peaceful, and stress-less Thanksgiving.

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