Planning Ahead: Thanksgiving Wine

Turkey day will soon be upon us.  Of all the holidays, Thanksgiving is most special for its survivability.  There's no expectation of gift-giving, the atmosphere is generally casual, and the stress of family and travel is offset by free-flowing booze.  In years past I've advocated serving beer over wine for the feast, but experience suggests that wine lovers will not be deterred. 

So, if you are planning on serving wine at Thanksgiving, a few thoughts on how to help make your wine enjoyment a little more special:
  • Less is more.  When picking a special wine to share with family and friends, don't succumb to the temptation of putting a bunch of different special bottles.  Why not?  Especially in the context of a boisterous holiday meal, too many special wines on the table will not only be competing for attention amidst the noise and rambunctiousness, but amongst each other.  Even if they are all special, our minds and palates are limited in their capacity to appreciate more than a couple of standouts.
  • Gulping vs appreciating. A lot of people like to showcase something special on the table.  Fantastic!  As you select that bottle, take into consideration that all of your guests may not share the same, um...reverence for wine as you do.  Your neighbors' college student will certainly enjoy the Cheval Blanc you serve, but might not appreciate it in the way you have in mind.
  • Simplify rather than diversify.  Year after year wine community forums fill up with people's Thanksgiving wine conquests.  These posts read like a cherry-picker's shopping list: Champagne, Riesling, Pinot, Cabernet, Port...all on the same table!  If the Thanksgiving menu wasn't confusing enough already, this diversity of flavors pushes gastronomic cohesion beyond reach.  Pick one good wine to have on the table and get several bottles of it.  There'll be less fighting, too.
  • Don't sweat the small stuff.  Sure, there are a couple of wines that usually go well with turkey, and a couple that go with sweet potato casserole, and some that do a good job with oyster stuffing, but none that go well with everything.  So, choose a wine that you enjoy on its own and don't worry about finding the perfect pairing.  Pairing is overrated anyway.
  • Quality suds. Finally, don't discount how much a good craft beer can bring to the meal.  Every city now has a dozen breweries making individualistic, high quality beer that can turn heads just as much as a terrific vintage.
Above all, whatever you do, drink responsibly - and take a moment to appreciate one another.