These three guidelines will help you find just the right bottles for the holiday dinner.

By Sarah Tracey
September 18, 2019

You've spent weeks planning the turkey day feast: carefully choosing a menu, table settings, and centerpiece. What about the wine? There seem to be two types of Thanksgiving hosts: those who find it daunting to pair all the food on the table with wine but spend weeks researching options to get it absolutely perfect and those who give up and treat the wine as a total afterthought.

The good news is it doesn't have to be complicated. Follow these three simple guidelines for choosing Thanksgiving wines for wine to complement your food. And if you're not hosting this year, this info will help you bring the best bottles to the feast.

Related: Thanksgiving Food and Drink Pairings

Let the Food Be the Star of the Show

Thanksgiving is the biggest food holiday of the year. It's like the Oscars and the Super Bowl combined for home cooks and food lovers. The traditional spread includes turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, and plenty of pie. With such a wide array of flavors and textures on the table, don't be afraid to let your cooking take center stage—choose simple, easy-drinking wines that complement the food, rather than competing with it. This is not the time to bring out a robust, rich Bordeaux or a complex aged Barolo. Young, fresh, simple wines will be the perfect accompaniment to balance out the rich dishes on your menu.

Another big Thanksgiving wine debate is whether yo should serve red or white: I actually recommend having both on hand, open and ready to drink. Set them out on the table and let the guests pour for themselves while you're carving the turkey or mastering the famous oven shuffle. Skip the decanters and fancy chillers; this is definitely a day when wine service should be simple.

Choose Low Alcohol Wines

For most of us, Thanksgiving is a very long day. We're up early getting the turkey in the oven and busy right up until the meal is served. We may treat ourselves to a splash of wine while we're putting some in the gravy, and we'll also sip a glass or two throughout the meal, of course. But it's important to remember that many Thanksgiving festivities last throughout afternoon and well into the evening. It's truly a marathon, and you want to be energized throughout the whole day. That's why, for yourself and your guests, it's a good idea to choose wines lower in alcohol. Every bottle of wine lists the ABV (alcohol by volume) on the label, so seek out whites reds and whites that fall in the 10-12 percent range—some wines can get up to 15-16 percent and you want to steer clear of those. Choosing low alcohol wines will keep everyone from feeling sluggish (or getting a bit tipsy and introducing controversial topics at the table—I'm looking at you, Aunt Marsha!).

Consider serving sparkling wines: They tend to be low in alcohol, with Moscato as low as six or seven percent, and Prosecco around 11 percent, and are a perfect palate cleanser throughout the meal. Other wonderful options are spritzers and ciders.

Think of Wine as a Condiment

Wine can be intimidating, and there's a lot to remember about different grape varieties and appellations. A simple trick for pairing wine with food is to think of the wine as one more condiment on the table. Are you someone who always puts out a bowl of fresh greens with lemon vinaigrette as a little relief from all the buttery side dishes and rich gravy? Look for a zesty white wine with fresh herbal aromas and crisp citrus flavors like a sauvignon blanc. If you love the tangy zing of cranberry relish with turkey and stuffing, there are wonderful red wines with lively tart red fruit character, like gamay or cool climate pinot noir, that will play the same role in your feast. For dessert, an oloroso-style sherry with its nutty, spicy, caramel flavors is perfect alongside apple pie in place of a drizzle of caramel sauce.

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