Thanksgiving is the cornerstone feast of the season, with a traditional approach of turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, seasonal vegetables like corn and squash, pumpkin pie for dessert … the menu options are only limited by your imagination. But to make the meal truly complete, make wine the centerpiece.
“The versatility of wine makes it the perfect complement for a big meal like Thanksgiving,” says Marcel Morgenstern, a sommelier from Pondview Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. “Adding a bold red wine to your gravy adds amazing flavor and heartiness. Pour table wines that pair well with turkey. A sweet dessert or late harvest wine goes nicely with your slice of pie.
“And of course, there is also the social side, swapping stories and catching up with family and friends over a shared bottle of wine. It brings the whole day together.”
To fully integrate fine wines into your Thanksgiving celebration, Marcel offers the following tips.
- If you won’t drink it, then don’t cook with it.You cook with wine because it brings out new and exciting flavors to enhance your palate. If you aren’t willing to put it in your glass, don’t put it in your gravy.
- Decant those big, beefy reds.Allowing a full-bodied red to breathe releases flavors and aromas that will delight. Decanting will also filter out any sediment from a wine that has been aging. You don’t want to treat younger reds too carefully: don’t be scared to aggressively pour them into a decanter and swish them around to help the bouquet to open up. Marcel suggests pouring the 2011 Bella Terra Cabernet Sauvignon into your decanter up to an hour before sharing it with your guests.
- Pair it up. Wine and food are a great match, with the right pairing complementing each other. For fans of white wines, put a crisp Riesling or Gewürztraminer on the table. A Thanksgiving “must try” is the slightly off-dry Gewürztraminer-Riesling blend. If you happen to favor reds, a medium-bodied Cabernet Merlot blend with soft tannins is a beautiful match with turkey with a rich gravy or reduction.
- Make it fancy.Many amateur wine lovers discount the importance of glassware, but it can make a huge difference in the enjoyment of your wine. The size, shape and style of the glass can influence everything from the flavor to the aroma to the temperature of the wine inside. A large bowl and narrow opening functions as a loudspeaker, intensifying the nuances of the wine. And if you can, avoid stemless wine glasses. They may be trendy, but the stem of the glass is there to keep your hands (and, thus, body heat) away from your wine — and greasy fingerprints really don’t look great on beautiful wine glasses!