Well, hate is a strong word. Too strong probably.
What I do hate is seeing people so stressed out over wine pairing — Thanksgiving or not — that they rely on the words of a stranger just because they are printed on paper. It's not worth worrying about, people.
Wine "experts" and sommeliers don't want you to think so, but wine pairing is often much more about avoiding bad pairings than it is finding the singular "perfect" one.
Are there classic pairings that are delicious? Absolutely, but they aren't hard and fast rules. Take the "perfect" match of foie gras and Sauternes. It's good and it's absolutely a classic, but if foie gras is being served in the middle of a meal, I know that I don’t want to drink a sweet wine with it. I prefer sparkling wine that can cut through the richness of the fattened duck's liver and whet my appetite for the rest of the meal.
I have a wine-loving friend who swears that pinot noir is the "perfect" wine to complement duck. I prefer local merlot or even cabernet franc. He's not wrong and neither am I. Why do people think that there are so many rules with this stuff?
Where am I going with all of this? It's simple: drink what you like… even if wine writers don't suggest it. Then again, if you read enough Thanksgiving wine columns, you're sure to find someone willing to say that most any wine from any region is "great with Turkey."
Remember, turkey is one of the most neutral foods in the world. Other than a big, hulking red with high tannins, I think most anything will work.
The myth of the "perfect Thanksgiving wine" is just that, a myth. Look at what you're eating on Thanksgiving day. In addition to that near-bland turkey, you have highly spiced stuffing (that can include oysters, chestnuts or sausage), rich gravy, green bean and/or sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes… I could go on, but you get the point. With all that variety of flavors and textures, there isn't any single wine that is going to make all of these taste better. No, not riesling. No, not pinot noir. No, not merlot.
So why not open a few bottles that you know you enjoy and try them all?
That's what I'm going to do this year. I'm going to open wines made with some of my favorite grapes — riesling, cabernet franc and merlot. And I'm probably going to open some rose as well, just because it's can be so darn versatile (and is always a hit with my family).
If you hate riesling, don't drink it. Open gewürztraminer or pinot gris instead. Don't think much of merlot? Okay, try pinot noir or zinfandel.
Do you know what you should drink this year on Thanksgiving? Local wines. The holiday is about giving thanks and I'm thankful to have such a dynamic region right in my own backyard. If you are too, support them.
In coming days, as I start pulling wines from my cellar, I'll let you know exactly what I'm going to open... not because I think you should drink what I'm drinking. Nah, I just want you to see the variety of wines I'm going to open. You should do the same. Really.
I'll also be posting some Thanksgiving recipes from some of Long Island's most accomplished chefs... with the wines that they recommend. I'll, of course, be offering alternative pairings too... because there just isn't a "perfect" pairing for anything.