The one wine that pairs perfectly with all Thanksgiving dishes, according to a sommelier


While a hearty glass of Malbec or a bold Cabernet Sauvignon might seem like the superior cold weather wine, you might want to reconsider pouring up the red this holiday season in favor of white. Team red wine, I can sense your head shaking, but hear me out.

For starters, red wine tends to make people sleepy, thanks to its high alcohol content. So, for a day like Thanksgiving, where it's more of a feasting and drinking marathon than a sprint, you'll want to pace yourself wisely to avoid falling asleep at the table, or worse, creating a tipsy political conflict with your family members. Red also tends to pair best with red meat, earthy flavors like mushrooms and foods with lots of spice, and has a tendency to overpower the vegetable side dishes.

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According Sarah Tracey, sommelier from The Lush Life, the perfect wine to pair with all of your Thanksgiving dishes is actually a crisp, aromatic and delicate white wine, specifically Riesling.

We recently caught up at a tasting for Chateau Ste. Michelle, a winery based in Woodinville, Washington, which produces both red and white wines, namely the Eroica Riesling that I'm a big fan of.

"You want something that can kind of play with everything," she said.

"Riesling is my turkey superstar, rockstar, all-star wine. Part of that reason is, you have light meat and dark meat, maybe gravy—you have a lot going on, and I think you want a wine that is delicate enough that it's not going to overpower the neutral white meat. But, then you have dark meat, and that definitely has more richness, more fat content, more of that gamey kind of quality, and what you’re going to look for in wine is that it has high acidity. It's that palate cleansing quality," she explained.

Tracey said to think of it like deglazing a pan when cooking. If you're sauteéing onions in butter and then you deglaze the pan with white wine, you're literally using the acid to scrape the fat from the pan. It's similar to what happens when you drink a white wine; it cleanses your palate, gets your mouth watering and gets you ready to taste more food. Not to mention, white wine tends to be lower in alcohol, so you can drink more and for longer.

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Riesling is not everyone's first choice of vino, though. Many wine drinkers, even mainly white wine drinkers, think it's too sweet, but Riesling comes in both sweet and dry varieties, and Tracey provided a little hack for knowing which one you're buying.

When looking at a bottle of Riesling, flip it over and look at the back label. There should be a scale marking it as either dry, medium dry, medium sweet or sweet! Turns out, the International Riesling Foundation understood how difficult it was to know which type of wine you're buying, and now, over 30 million Riesling bottles in the U.S. are incorporating the scale, known as the Riesling Taste Profile.

If you still can't get into Riesling, Tracey also suggested trying other white wines that are light, crisp, have a delicate aromatic and citrusy acidity, including Pinot Gris (American Pinot Grigio) and Sauvignon Blanc.

"I love Pinot Gris from Oregon if you want to keep it all-American for Turkey Day," she suggested.

Of course, if you still can't imagine the holiday without a glass of red wine, try looking for one that's under the12 percent ABV level, like a Pinot Noir or one made in a cooler region where the grapes ripen less and are usually lower in alcohol. Otherwise, good luck at your Thanksgiving table, and may the odds ever be in your favor.