Putting a Cork in Your Thanksgiving Wine Anxiety

Judging from media coverage alone, no other holiday in America instills as much wine anxiety as does Thanksgiving. From bloggers to television hosts to nearly every newspaper wine column in the country, wine advice pours forth to salve the worried minds of the wine inclined

“A Guide to the Best Wines For Thanksgiving.”

“Top Thanksgiving Bottles.”

“What Wines to Serve for Thanksgiving Dinner.”

“Which Wine’s a Winner for Thanksgiving?”

The advice is well meaning, and the need very real. Everyone seems to want help figuring out what to drink, and serve, with America’s most important meal.

My words here serve the same purpose, but with different means. You’re going to get different advice from me than most of the other oeno-pundits. If you’re worried about what wine to serve your friends, family, and guests on Thanksgiving, I’m here to tell you that wine should be the last thing of concern. Because the honest-to-goodness truth about wine choices for Thanksgiving is about as boring as overcooked white poultry.

It doesn’t really matter what wine you serve with Thanksgiving.

The idea that you should be selecting certain particular wines for this meal of infinite flavors arises from the same inane suppositions that give rise to the so called “rules” of food and wine pairing, which are all utter bunk.

In my opinion these well-intentioned but completely misguided principles have done more harm to the average wine drinker’s appreciation for wine than any other element of the wine world. Countless earnest consumers, eager to experience their own little wine and food epiphanies, dutifully pair Chardonnay with chicken and Pinot Noir with pork often to their utter disappointment, if not mere ambivalence.

Far too many factors are at play for rules to make any sense when matching food and wine, not the least of which involve the drinker’s individual preferences, which no such rule can ever really reflect.

If pairing food and wine in everyday meals nearly always proves fraught with anticlimax, how could Thanksgiving, a meal — nay, a culinary event — of such organoleptic and emotional complexity possibly lend itself to a few simple wine suggestions that are bound to satisfy, as so many pundits seem wont to offer?

Everything about Thanksgiving conspires towards chaos. As if a non-professional cook making a meal comprised of fifteen or more dishes weren’t hard enough, these culinary efforts are usually prosecuted under the intense scrutiny of one’s relatives, before, during, and after.

Thankfully, we have alcohol to help with all of this. Wine is a balm for frayed nerves and familial friction, and lucky for all of us, Riesling does just as good a job as Cabernet in these situations.

It does not matter what wine you drink, as long as you are drinking wine.

However much I may dismiss any suggestion of pairing wine with your single plate of twelve different foods that range from salty to sweet to savory, I cannot ignore the fact that you may indeed need to pair your wine with your people.

Much more important than finding a bottle capable of enhancing Aunt Tillie’s stuffing recipe, you may certainly need to find a bottle that keeps Uncle Jimmy from complaining about your wine offering.

Which brings us to the only bit of wine advice that I think is worth a damn on Thanksgiving, and therefore the only bit of advice I am ever likely to dispense to anyone who cares to listen.

Serve a bunch of different wines for people to choose from. Open them all, and let people enjoy them. Which wines? It really doesn’t matter. Most Thanksgiving meals have something that matches nearly every wine on the planet, and practically none of them are going to make for a magical pairing with the traditional bird anyway.

If you know someone coming has a particular preference, by all means, make sure there’s a bottle or two to make them happy. And that goes for you, too. Make sure there’s a bottle of something that you’ll enjoy mixed in there.

Because at the end of the day, that’s what this holiday is all about: enjoying food and wine with friends, while we all give thanks that we’re still on this side of the grass. What’s in the glass matters infinitely less than with whom we share it.

So go forth! Cook, drink, eat, and drink some more. Focus on what’s important this holiday season, not the wine. We all have enough things to worry about.

Photo of anxious woman and man drinking courtesy of Bigstock