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Perfect Pairs for Thanksgiving Dinner

Choose the right wine for Thanksgiving dinner.

Red Wines

Try lighter reds with a bit of acid and some fresh fruitiness.

Beaujolais (gamay): A light, food-friendly red that you can serve just slightly chilled.

Oregon Pinot Noir or French Burgundy: Earthy, fruity Pinots often work well with the meal's many competing and contrasting flavors.

Italian Reds: Like Pinot Noir, Chianti can have an earthy quality and a good amount of food-friendly acidity, which makes it a terrific Thanksgiving wine. It's not just for pasta anymore! The same goes for Barbera from Piedmont. Excellent, versatile food wines.

Zinfandel: Fruity Zinfandel shows many personalities; it's also an American original, and so a fitting choice for America's favorite feast. Choose a lighter style that's not booming with alcohol.

White Wines

Chardonnay: The Thanksgiving table is loaded with rich food. It’s the right time to break out a rich, round California Chardonnay with ripe fruit balanced out by refreshing acidity.

Riesling: This is a tremendous, often overlooked food wine. With all the flavors competing for attention, dry Riesling's acidity and slight touch of sweetness should complement them all.

Champagne/Sparkling wine: Often forgotten once the toasting's done, Champagne and sparkling wines can be a fun alternative for dinner. You might pop a bottle before dinner and find that you're enjoying it clear through to dessert. Try a fruity rosé sparkling wine.

Sauvignon Blanc: This wine's lively acidity and herbal characteristics make it a great choice for Thanksgiving dinner.

Red or White? Why Not Both?

For traditional thanksgiving meals, it need not be an either/or situation. Sometimes the best choice is to offer both red and white and let the guests choose for themselves. Sometimes it pays to place a couple glasses at each guest's table setting. He or she can try a splash of white here, a sip of red there, comparing and contrasting before settling on a favorite. Offering a few choices can also make for fun conversation.

How Much is Enough?

For dinner, one bottle per couple can be a safe bet. Mindful guests will likely bring a bottle or two with them. But around the holidays, when dinners (and diners) can linger, it pays to be prepared for a thirsty group.

    Serving Temperatures

    During the cooler holiday season, red wines should be fine served at room temperature. The ideal temperature, of course, is always determined by the palate of the partaker, but a good range to shoot for is between about 58 and 65 degrees. (Serve lighter reds a bit cooler than bigger reds like Cabernet Sauvignon.)

    If after hours of dinner preparation, your house is an oven, store your reds in a slightly cooler room, like the basement or an unheated utility room near the garage--or put them in the fridge for about 20 minutes before serving. For your whites, try taking them out of the refrigerator about a half hour before serving.

      Saving Your Wine

      If you end up with several opened but unfinished bottles of wine, there are ways to preserve them. One way to make opened wines last a bit longer is to refrigerate them. The cold climate will slow the chemical changes conspiring to spoil your wine. Another method is to transfer the leftover wine into a smaller bottle. This helps because a smaller bottle will expose the wine to less air.

      You can also buy fancy vacuum contraptions that suck the air out of the bottle. Or, perhaps best of all, you can gather the crowd around the table the next evening for a feast of leftovers.

        Nov. 3, 2010 3:19 pm
        If you're spending money on wine you might as well spend the little extra on the "fancy contraption" that sucks the air out of the bottle. It works very well and keeps the wine tasty for much longer and it's really not so very expensive!
        Nov. 25, 2010 10:17 am
        Does anybody know how much wine per pound of turkey ?...thanks HTG !
        Dec. 18, 2010 3:22 pm
        You can get a GREAT hand pump vacuum sealer with 2 or more sealers for individual wine bottles for about $20, and you will never have to buy it again! It is SO worth it! I use it every time I open & don't finish any bottle of wine, regardless of how much I paid for the bottle.
        Nov. 14, 2011 7:08 am
        I also found a great resource for Thanksgiving Wine Pairings here and they also have a widget for all types of pairings too! Great site!
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