No BS Wine Pairing Tips for Holiday Dinners

Flickr user lowjumpingfrog

Last Updated Nov 27, 2009 5:11 PM EST

Step away from the Cabernet. That's right, just walk away. The last thing you want for Thanksgiving or any traditional holiday dinner is tannins, and Cabernet, Merlot -- Bordeaux reds in general -- are the kings of tannins.

Take it from me; I'm a serious wine geek, among other things. Hell, I've got a two thousand bottle wine cellar right across the hall from my home office. Now that's discipline! Besides, every manager and business person should know enough about wine to get by.

So, without all the wine-speak that nobody understands, without all the "fruit forward," "high acidity," "strawberries and cherries on the nose" BS, here's what you should be drinking along with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner:

Nouveau Beaujolais. You probably didn't know this, but wineries all over the northern hemisphere were harvesting not too long ago, and this varietal -- made from the Gamay grape -- is the first press made especially for the holidays. Just go into a wine shop or supermarket with a good wine selection and ask for it. $10 - $12 tops. Serve around 55 degrees, i.e. slightly chilled.

Pinot Noir. If you've got to have a mainstream red, this is the one. Always fine with birds and rich accompaniments. But for God's sake, get a light one that's meant to be drunk young, if you can. Over-the-top super fruit forward Pinots can overpower the meal. Calera Central Coast, Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County, or Saintsbury Garnet are great examples of reasonably priced Pinot Noirs that are great for the holidays.

Dry Rose. One of my favorites, especially in summer. This is pretty much the last chance to enjoy it before the weather turns cold on us. Serve chilled like you would a white wine. Americans are just starting to wake up to this gem, but folks in France and Italy have been drinking it for centuries. Just ask your local wine shop for a good one, but Etude, Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare, Unti and Sofia by Francis Coppola are some California favorites.

Brut Rose or Blanc de Noir champagne or sparkling wine. Roederer Estate makes a great Brute Rose sparkling wine.

As for the whites, the rule is little or no oak:

Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris. Same grape. Perfect white wine for the holidays. Mostly from Italy or France, but Luna, Etude, and lots of wineries in Oregon make great American versions.

Dry Riesling or Gewürztraminer. Try Lazy Creek from Anderson Valley, if you can find it, or Pacific Rim Dry Riesling.

Unoaked Chardonnay. If you must have a "mainstream" white, make sure it's an unoaked Chardonnay or one with relatively little oak. The central coast of California -- Monterey and Santa Barbara counties -- is famous for this style. Calera, Qupe, Au Bon Climat and Foxglove all make great Chardonnays your family and friends will love.

Lastly, if you're spending beaucoup bucks for your Thanksgiving wine, then you're just not getting it. None of these wines should be overly pricy. If they are, you're doing something wrong.

Whatever you eat or drink, don't forget what Thanksgiving's all about: be thankful for what you've got. Happy Thanksgiving from me and The Corner Office. 

Image from Flickr user lowjumpingfrog