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This Thanksgiving, start the meal with a glass of bubbly & match wines with each course

for The Brooklyn Paper

Family, friends, food and wine come together to make Thanksgiving my favorite holiday. There are so many flavors and textures of food that matching wines with them is really easy. Yet there aren’t any steadfast rules.

I’ve found that wines that are a little higher in acidity with fruity undertones work the best, primarily because that style of wine leaves the palate clean and prepares your mouth for more food.

You get six servings of wine out of a 750-milliliter bottle; an average drinker will have one glass of wine per hour. Take it from there. I’ve found that pouring half glasses of wine affords everybody the opportunity to try different wines. Instead of buying six bottles of the same wine, why not try six different ones? Last year we made up little signs listing the wines that we were serving. Everybody loved it.

If you are supplying the wines, you should try to take into account who is coming. If you know Aunt May likes white Zinfandel, throw a bottle of that in. (You would be surprised at how much white Zinfandel is purchased.) Try to have an even balance between red and white wines unless you know there are no white (or red) drinkers.

A nice way to start the dinner is to serve a glass of bubbly, like a Prosecco, a light-bodied sparkling wine. This will help relax your guests and prepare them for the upcoming feast. One of my favorites is from Mionetto. It’s lean and refreshing, a good lead-in to the Thanksgiving feast to come. (If you don’t want to serve bubbly as an aperitif, you could also open a Sauvignon Blanc as your guests arrive.)

Over the years, I’ve found that light- to medium-bodied, fruity red Zinfandels work really well. As I said earlier, wines with a little higher acidity clean the palate. That’s why the Beaujolais Nouveau works well with turkey. They usually have wonderful, lively fruit and are not heavy. But another way to go with reds is lighter-style Shirazes, and don’t forget the Malbecs. A nice fruity Beaujolais is often paired with Thanksgiving food, but just about any red would work as long as it doesn’t overpower the flavors of the dishes. After all, it is comfort food.

Now let’s get to the white wines. Keep in mind that there usually is a lot of butter in the various dishes. I would rather have a leaner, crisper Chardonnay than an over-the-top oaky, buttery one.

Why compete with the food? Just join it.

There are many unoaked Chardonnays that are available in all price ranges. Last year, somebody brought over a bottle of Vouvray (a dry white table wine from central France), and a white Zinfandel lover at the table discovered there was another wine that they really liked.

Don’t forget about Rieslings. They are a wonderful match with the traditional sweet potato dishes, especially if you put fruit in yours.

A nice way to end the meal is with a fresh fruit salad standing overnight with some Muscato D’Asti mixed in; everybody will want seconds.

Remember, variety is the spice of life. Don’t be afraid to experiment a little. What’s also great about Thanksgiving is the picking and tasting a couple of hours after the meal is done. Set out a little table of the wines people may have missed earlier.

Have a happy and healthy holiday.

Rick Landy is the manager of Michael-Towne Wines & Spirits in Brooklyn Heights.


Michael-Towne Wines & Spirits, located at 73 Clark St. at Henry Street in Brooklyn Heights, will be offering tastings of wines for Thanksgiving, starting two weeks prior to Thanksgiving, Nov. 25. Tastings are Monday through Saturday, from 5 pm to 8 pm. For more information, call (718) 875-3667.

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