4 Wines to Have on the Thanksgiving Table

It's almost that time to wake up early, watch the parade, make the pumpkin pie, and decorate the table for Thanksgiving! I look forward to this day every year not only for the mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes (potatoes are my favorite) but because its the day that I can put multiple wine glasses at each place setting, open a ton of bottles, and force my family to try everything while I enthusiastically shout out what wine to try with which dish (it really is a dream come true). Just kidding, I don't force anyone to drink wine. But it is pretty awesome getting to taste each wine with the side dishes and having those "aha!" moments where something works really well.

With that, I give you my top 4 wines to have on your Thanksgiving table this year and every year after this. Since you'll hopefully have plenty of people over to drink 4 bottles of wine, this is a great way to get variety onto the table and avoid buying multiple bottles of the same wine. Woohoo!

What wine to do you pair with Thanksgiving dinner? I say, pair 4 of them! Here are the top 4 wines that must be on your Thanksgiving dinner table | Lessons in Libations

1. Sparkling Wine

What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than with sparkling wine?! Not only are bubbles great for the holidays, but they also pair with the many flavors of the meal. Each time you take a sip of sparkling wine, the bubbles scrub your tongue clean, giving you a fresh palate for the next bite of food you take. With all the flavors going on in Thanksgiving side dishes, sparkling wine will help cleanse your palate.

You have lots of choices when it comes to bubbles, depending on your budget. Cava, Prosecco, Champagne...all good. My biggest piece of advice, however, is to spend at least $10 on that bottle of bubbly. Any less, and you risk the bottle being force-carbonated which might give you a nasty hangover for Black Friday. (And nobody wants that).

Dani's Picks:

  • Nino Franco Prosecco Brut $
  • Freixenet Brut $
  • Roederer Estate Brut Rosé $$
  • Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut $$$

2. Riesling

Riesling is an absolute MUST at the Thanksgiving table! There are lots of sweet flavors in the dishes, so you need a sweet wine to balance them out. However, don’t go buying late-harvest, dessert-style Rieslings as they are way too sweet and heavy to pair with dinner. Instead, opt for a Kabinett Riesling from Germany or a domestic off-dry example. These wines are great pairings for Thanksgiving because the sweetness of the wine matches the sweetness in the food and won't overpower even the lightest dishes.

Dani's Picks:

  • Dr. Loosen "Dr. L" Mosel, Germany $
  • Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley, Washington $
  • Dr. Loosen "Blue Slate" Kabinett Mosel, Germany $$
  • Elk Cove, Willamette Valley, Oregon $$

3. Beaujolais

Thanksgiving is my favorite time to drink Beaujolais. It is actually the first red wine I think of when preparing my wine list for the big day. I partly enjoy it so much with this holiday because I never seem to drink it any other time of the year, even though it's a great little wine with a very small price tag. A light red wine made from the gamay grape, Beaujolais boasts vibrant flavors of bright red fruit and even a bit of candied "grapeiness". Its a crowd-pleaser, as usual sweet-wine drinkers even warm up to it, and it pairs incredibly with Thankgsiving. You can usually find a cheap Beaujolais under $10, but for a few dollars more, you can get the best of the best, Cru Beaujolais. I say if you get one wine to go with Thanksgiving dinner, make it this one. Note: Beaujolais Nouveau hits stores in November each year, so it should be very easy to find.

Dani's Picks:

  • Any Beaujolais-Villages
  • Any Beaujolais that says "Morgon", "Brouilly", or "Moulin-a-Vent"
  • Favorite producers: Joseph Drouhin and Georges DuBoeuf

4. Pinot Noir/Red Burgundy

Like Beaujolais, Pinot Noir is a great wine for Thanksgiving because it is light, fruity, and low in tannin. Thanksgiving dishes are not heavy  so these light-bodied wines will complement, rather than overpower, them. Personally I suggest a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley or Burgundy as these are usually the lightest and have a bit more earthiness to them than their California counterparts.

My Picks:

  • Erath, Willamette Valley, Oregon $
  • Adelsheim Vineyards, Willamette Valley, Oregon $$
  • Flowers, Sonoma Coast, California $$
  • Any red burgundy--look for Savigny-Les-Beaune or Nuits-St. Georges for good values

Other Favorites of Mine

Gewurztraminer or Cabernet Franc are also great additions to the Thanksgiving table if you are feeling a bit more adventurous. Just stay away from big wines like Nebbiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon, unless you have guests coming over that will not settle with anything else (in which you should make them bring their own wine. Just saying.)

What are your favorite wines to pair with Thanksgiving dinner? Let me know in the comment

What Wine to Pair With Chicken Wings

Chicken wings usually go hand-in-hand with beer, but what if you are in the mood for a glass of wine? Today's chicken wing wine pairing will help you out when you want to go beyond wings and beer.

Today's pairing might be considered the ultimate challenge for wine, but I'm doing it anyway! Why is it such a challenge?

Because wings generally do NOT pair well with wine.

In chicken wings, its all about the sauce; and wing sauce is usually spicy or sweet. Spicy and sweet are flavors that are incredibly difficult to match up to wine. Spicy foods enhance the perception of alcohol and tannin in red wine, so forget drinking any reds with wing sauce that has any sort of kick to it (which is most of them). And generally you need a wine that is just as sweet, if not more sweet, than the food you're pairing it with. Since 90% of wines are dry out there, they won't go well with your sweet wing sauce.

What to Pair with Chicken Wings

So...we can't do any red wines or dry wines, so what are we left with? Sweet, white wine. (And you thought wings were manly.)

Men, put your egos away for 2 seconds and realize that sweet wine and hot, spicy chicken wings pair perfectly together. Sweetness in wine actually cools down the effects of spicy foods, so the two go hand-in-hand. My number one wine to pair with wings is off-dry Riesling. Off-dry means that it has a touch of sweetness but won't be too sweet or overwhelming like a dessert-sweet Riesling will be.

Look for a German Riesling that says "Kabinett" on the bottle. Do not buy anything that says "Trocken", as that is German for "dry" (which will taste terrible with our wings, as we pointed out earlier). If you are buying a domestic Riesling, take a look at the label and see if the level of sweetness is stated. Ideally you want something with a little sugar but not too crazy. Stay away from any bottle that says "Icewine" (it'll be way too sweet).

Dani's Recommendations for Commonly-Available Riesling:

  • Dr. Loosen "Estate Kabinett" Riesling (Mosel, Germnay)
  • Dr. Loosen "Dr. L" Riesling (Mosel, Germany)
  • Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling (Washington)
  • Anew Riesling (Washington)
Chicken wings make a tough wine pairing, but some wines do work! Check out Dani's recommendation for pairing wine and spicy chicken wings together | CaretoPair.com

Other Libations that Work

There's a few other sweet wines out there that can be great with chicken wings. Just make sure the wine is actually sweet as some producers make "dry" styles. And dry wine with sweet and spicy chicken wings equals disaster! Try:

  • Gewurztraminer
  • Moscato
  • Sparkling wine made in the "Extra Dry" or "Demi-Sec" style. Learn More.

And then, of course, there's beer...who's bubbles will scrub away all the spice lingering in your mouth from those chicken wings. Beer really is a no-brainer with wings, so stay tuned for my next post which will highlight the best ones to pair it with.

Have fun feeling extra-fancy with your wine and chicken wings! To make your own wings at home, I really like this recipe from Living Lou.

Chicken Wings can be a tough dish for wine pairing, but there are some wines that work! Dani from Care to Pair lists out what your wine needs to have in order to pair with sweet or spicy chicken wings | CaretoPair.com

What Wine to Pair with Chinese Take-Out

My first time having "real" Chinese food was when I was a senior in high school. My friends took me to Panda Express. I know that this far from authentic Chinese fare, but it was the first Asian-inspired sensory experience my taste buds had ever gotten, and I was immediately in love.

Fast forward two years of living on a college campus and having Panda Express almost every day of my life, I had about enough of it. You know when you eat too much of something (you used to love) that you can't stand the thought of having any more? That happened with this chain. But I still love take-out. There's just something about all those sweet, sour, and salty flavors melding into one delicious meal.

The Pairing

So today I'm pairing take-out Chinese with wine. Don't get this mixed up with authentic Chinese cuisine, now. The two are very different. This post is for the sweet, fried, greasy take-out Chinese our taste buds love (even if our health does not). It can also be for homemade Chinese-take-out inspired dishes, like the ones I made for this post.

And the winning wine for this meal is....Riesling! Most wines clash with sweet and spicy flavors such as the ones we get in Chinese take-out. But an off-dry or medium-sweet Riesling is its best friend. Not only does the sweetness of Riesling match the sweetness of the food, it also calms the spice down from any sort of kung-pow chicken or hot and sour soup you may be including. I think what we love about Chinese take-out is all of the different flavors and textures we can have in one meal. Chinese food definitely is not boring. Riesling won't fight with the myriad of flavors; instead, it will cleanse your palette between each bite of deliciousness (and make you feel totally fancy).

When buying a Riesling to pair with your Chinese Take-Out, search for one that is off-dry to medium sweet. Look for "Qba", "Kabinett", or "Spatlese" on the label. Stay away from "late-harvest" or dessert-style Riesling (if it says beerenauslese, trockenbeerenauslese, or ice wine, it will be way too sweet for the meal). Do not drink dry Rieslings with Chinese food, either.

The Recipes

I'm totally cool with you ordering take out, sitting down in front of the TV with your honey and enjoying a bottle of Riesling. In fact, its possibly the best way to make your take-out fancy on a Friday night date-night in. But if you're in the mood to cook for a little bit, making your own Chinese take-out inspired meal will be amazing and very rewarding. For my spread, I made baked cream cheese wontons, beef and broccoli, orange chicken, hot and sour soup, and a side of white rice. The meal took me over an hour to make but it was soooooo delicious. I'm not sure Andrew and I will be ordering take out anymore...unless we are feeling lazy, of course. I'm telling you, cooking your own take-out inspired Chinese food at home is much more delicious than ordering out.

The Recipes we used:

Happy Pairing!

Smothered Onion Bratwurst Paired with Riesling

Serve this recipe with braised cabbage and German potato salad and you've got yourself a (really filling) meal!

Do you ever have one of those nights where you just want a glass of wine? "Every day!" might be your answer. I switch frequently from beer to wine and wine to beer. And that's what happened to me while making today's recipe. I was originally planning on serving these onion-smothered brats with beer. I mean, they're cooked in beer, isn't it obvious to drink beer with them? But this is an example of how you don't always have to follow the rules.

So I was really craving some Bavarian flavors when I found this recipe. I have seriously enjoyed the hot days this summer, but I'm also really missing my oven. All my poor German and French cookbooks are getting dusty as the majority of the recipes are hearty, cold-weather belly warmers. With these bratwursts though, I found a loophole.

The Pairing

Along with my cookbooks, a few bottles of Riesling in my collection were getting dusty too. That's when you know its time to open them! (Of course unless that dusty wine is special and you are intending to age it.) Truth is we don't drink Riesling too often. I find this strange because Riesling is one of the best wines to pair with difficult foods. Most sweet or spicy dishes are impossible to pair with wines. If you have a sweeter dressing on a salad or a spicy peanut sauce on some noodles, you can rule out most reds and whites to drink with it. The answer to all these tough situations is Riesling...or beer. And I usually go with beer. But not this time!

This meal really had a myriad of flavors. The key to the bratwursts is the sweet, buttery onions.  I served the brats with red cabbage (also sweet) and German Potato Salad (vinegary...and sweet...and bacony). The riesling, itself having been sweet with very high acidity, enhanced the sweetness and acidity in the food without overwhelming my palate. Besides beer, I can't think of a better pairing {wink wink}.

Suggested Pairings

In general, I suggest a slightly sweet Riesling. Avoid anything that says dry (or anything from Alsace, which are almost always dry). The one we had with this meal was a Kabinett Riesling. This means it  wasn't too sweet but did have some residual sugar. Look for "Qba", "Kabinett" or even "Spatlese" on the label. Anything sweeter will be too much for this recipe. If you're sticking with wine from the states, most should work as long as they are not intentionally a dessert or late harvest Riesling.

If you are in the mood for beer...your options are almost endless! Lots of beers will go with this dish, from pilsners to doppelbocks. Stay true to the origins of this meal and pick a lager from Germany. Some of my picks would be a German Helles, German Pils, Oktoberfest, Altbier, or Doppelbock.

The Recipe

As I mentioned above I served these beer brats with German potato salad and sauteed red cabbage. My stove was jam packed! But the meal gave us a filling dinner and plenty of leftovers. We used it in week 2 of our $30 grocery budget plan if you need a little inspiration. We served the brats in buns topped with the onions but you can easily omit that.

Recipe inspired by eatliverun.com


Smothered Onion Grilled Bratwurst

Author:Dani (CaretoPair.com)

Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: 1 hour

Total time: 1 hour 5 mins

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb bratwurst sausage (about 4 links)
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 bottle of dark lager, like a dunkel or bock. If you don't have this, a pilsner will work well too
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Instructions

  1. Heat 4 tbsp coconut or olive oil in a large skillet. Once hot, saute onions for about ten minutes until golden. Add the butter and garlic and saute for another few minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Pour the beer into the pan and add the brats. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  3. After this, turn an outdoor grill on to high. Remove the brats from the pan and set aside. Turn the heat back up to high and bring the sauce to a boil. Add the salt, brown sugar and worcestershire sauce. Stir frequently and cook, letting the sauce reduce and thicken up.
  4. While the sauce is cooking, cook the brats on the grill for a few minutes until they have the char you desire.
  5. When the brats are done, bring them back inside. Serve on buns with the onion mixture on top.

Happy Pairing!