This weekend is Thanksgiving, which for many of us involves a big dinner with friends and family. But with a big celebration comes some big pressure – we’ve all been there, standing in the liquor store, unsure which of the hundreds of bottles will impress your guests.
Don’t panic! Here to help us be the hostess with the mostess is sommelier Natalie MacLean, who offers Canada’s most popular online wine video classes. She stopped by The Social to offer up her tips on how to pick the right wine just in time for your Thanksgiving festivities. Check them out below, and watch the video above to listen to our chat with Natalie!
Natalie suggests counting one to two glasses of wine per guest, per hour as people tend to drink more in the evening than during the day. On the other hand, if guests bring over bottles of wine, you can ask whether they were looking to enjoy it today or on a later date, clarifying whether it should be served at dinner. If you are the guest bringing the wine it is common to spend $15 a bottle on casual meals and for more serious dinners, $25 plus.
Keep in mind as the night goes on, it is always best to go from a light-bodied wine to more full bodied, so that you aren’t drinking a sweet wine before a bone-dry one. Paired with a hors d’oeuvre, Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc, a zesty white wine from New Zealand or a high-class bubbly, Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne from France is perfect for a splurge. For a cheaper alternative, Henry of Pelham Winery Cuvee Catharine Rosé Brut is elegant, half the price and from Niagara – a win all around.
First course wines
When dinner is ready to be served, begin with a light bodied dry white wine such as Concilio Pinot Grigio 2016, pairing well with a salad as a starter. The medium-bodied Reif Estate Winery Riesling 2017 from Niagara has lovely lemon and lime citrus notes, and is another excellent choice. For a true stand-out, though, the more full-bodied Carnivor Shiraz from Australia with fleshy ripe plum and dark berry flavours is ideal for more richly flavoured starter like a charcuterie.
Main course wines
Perfect for a main course of roast chicken, the lovely, rich, full-bodied Hester Creek Estate Winery Golden Mile Bench Chardonnay 2018 from British Columbia which would be a fantastic choice. Another option is the cherry-ripe MacMurray Estate Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2015, the perfect partner to a duck or game bird dinner. Finally, a deeply concentrated red wine such as the 7 Deadly Zins Old Vine Zinfandel 2014 from California would be great for Thanksgiving turkey and side dishes as well.
If you’re looking to serve a heavenly, chocolate dessert, Warre’s Finest Reserve Port – the traditional fortified wine from Portugal- is a wonderful choice. There’s also a spectacular Inniskillin Niagara Estate Vidal Sparkling Icewine 2014 that works beautifully with a crème brûlée, and finally a light wine like the Southbrook Vineyards Framboise from Niagara pairs perfectly with a pie, fruit tart or cobbler, as it is made from raspberries rather than grapes.
Decanting vs. chilling
A common misunderstanding is when to decant a wine versus when to chill a wine. Decanting occurs with full bodied tannic red wines and can be completed 1-2 hours before guests arrive, allowing it to breathe and become smooth. Contrarily, white wines are often over-chilled, losing their aromas and flavours. To get a white wine at the right temperature, take it out of the fridge 15 minutes before serving it to warm up a bit.