Thanksgiving is a time to gorge yourself on highly fattening, savory foods, assembled in a not-always-harmonious, semi-random way. This gluttonous holiday has such an eclectic mix of textures and flavors (salty, sweet, fruity, gamey, creamy…) that it’s a feat to find wines versatile enough to go with everything. So what’s a wine lover to do? Chugging a Bud is not an option. Clearly, you have to drink wine. You’ll have turn to CPR to breathe some life into your Turkey Day. What’s CPR? Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Riesling, of course! Here’s why each is a match.
● “C”: Chardonnay is perfect in both its forms — still and sparkling (blanc de blanc Champagne is made from Chardonnay, look for it on the label). As a regular wine, full-bodied, creamy Chardonnay from Burgundy, California, Australia, or Chile is an easy companion for turkey, and simultaneously enhances creamy mashed potatoes and sweet candied yams. Everyone loves the bubbly, so it’s fortunate that Champagne’s acid and effervescence add lively boost and contrast to your butter-laden dinner. Sparkling is an awesome pairing for dessert, too. It’s a bang for your buck, if you don’t down it too early in the evening.
● “P”: Pinot Noir is overdone these days. Unless it’s from an esteemed producer, I find the variety very passé: there’s so much bad stuff out there that it pollutes the bunch. However, if you get a great bottle from Burgundy or Oregon, it will make your meal phenomenal. For its versatility with food (rather than its mean-spirited attitude towards waitresses) Pinot is known as the chef’s wine. Get a high-quality, fruity one with complex flavors and lots of acid and it will match with everything from dark meat to green beans. A sparkling version of Pinot Noir — either as a rosé or blanc de noir Champagne — will also be divine, for the same reasons a Chard-based bubbly kicks ass.
● “R”: Riesling is so underappreciated. It can be dry, a little sweet (off-dry), or über-sweet, but it always has crazy acid so it dissolves saltiness and breaks up the heaviness of the food, leaving your mouth clean and pleasantly fruity. Germany is king when it comes to this grape, so pick up one from there to infuse your meal with kinetic acid that will make your mouth water and keep you awake even after the tryptophan sets in. Off-dry Rieslings are good for sweet lovers, but if you want a dry German Riesling look for “classic,” “selection,” or “trocken” on the label.
Speaking of tryptophan, if you hate everything above, remember what this lovely chemical does for the last suggestion: “Zzzzzz” as in Zinfandel, which is ideal for red wine lovers. It has a strawberry, peppery flavor that complements cranberry relish and mitigates the sodium-fest inherent in the Thanksgiving meal.
Any of these wines can take your meal off life support and infuse it with deliciousness. Perfect CPR for your dinner … which is more than I can offer the turkey.
Elizabeth Schneider is a certified specialist of wine, sommelier, and wine educator in Atlanta who teaches about wine in a normal, relatable way. For more of her musings please visit her blog Wine for Normal People or her Twitter @Vine75.