Thanksgiving hosts must obey two important rules in providing wine.
First, do not run out! It's a feast of plenty, and the wine should reflect the same spirit of generosity and gratitude. A good rule of thumb is one bottle per drinking guest. It might sound like a lot, and you might well have leftovers. But too much wine is just fine. Not enough is not.
The second rule is one of courtesy: Provide both reds and whites. Many people will enjoy both. But at least one guest will claim that red wine gives him headaches, and another believes that whites give her heartburn. This is not the time for a debate on the matter. Plan to have both.
Otherwise, wine is the easiest chore you will have. All will go well, because it almost always does. But certain characteristics in the wines you select can help to enhance the meal.
Here are some tips for choosing wines and serving them. And you need not serve wine, of course — cider and beer are good alternatives.
Need some help getting everything ready for your Thanksgiving feast? Nov. 12 through Nov. 22, we’ll offer tips, advice and recipes.
› Sunday: Thanksgiving tools
› Monday: Choosing a turkey
› Tuesday: What to drink
› Wednesday: Sumptuous sides
› Thursday: Beer and turkey pairings
› Friday: Setting the table
› Saturday: How to be a good guest
› Nov. 19: Tips for your turkey
› Nov. 20: Buffet essentials
› Nov. 21: How to snag the wishbone
› Nov. 22: Ideas for your leftovers
» With a meal this large and varied, painstakingly matching specific wines to particular foods is virtually impossible. So don't sweat it. Instead, look for limber, versatile wines that will go with many different flavors. You want fresh and lively rather than heavy, tannic and oaky. Wines with generous acidity will be more refreshing than low-acid wines, which tend toward flat and enervating.
» Over the years, The Times has recommended a variety of whites and reds: bottles from the Loire Valley, cru Beaujolais, California red field-blends, Oregon pinot noir and pinot gris, dry, earthy Lambruscos, Muscadet and Chablis, reds and whites from Mount Etna in Sicily, Spanish reds from Ribeira Sacra, Finger Lakes rieslings and syrahs from the northern Rhône and California. But these aren't the only wines that will work. Don't hesitate to seek guidance at your local wine shop. That, by the way, is an excellent piece of general advice: Cultivate the merchants at the best wine shop nearby.
» Avoid high-alcohol wines at a long and tiring feast. It's best not to serve wines that are more than 14.5 percent alcohol for Thanksgiving. Such powerful wines are no problem if you are just having a glass or two, but if you like to drink more than that, you'll want wines that won't be fatiguing. Moderately sweet wines like German kabinett and spätlese rieslings can be wonderful Thanksgiving accompaniments, and they may be as low as 8 percent alcohol.
» Add wineglasses to the list of things not to worry about. If you have enough stemware, go ahead and use it. But if you don't, juice glasses, tumblers or whatever will do just fine. Glass beats plastic every time. Better for the wine, better for the environment. But if you must use disposable vessels, avoid any with cheap plastic stems. They will fall apart, the wine will spill, things will be stained, and you will be unhappy.
» Serving temperature is worth controlling if possible. Whites should be cold, but not icy. Reds should be cool rather than room temperature. If refrigerator space is precious, you can store the wines outdoors, assuming it's cool enough. No outdoor space? Perhaps an ice chest.
» Are there good alternatives to wine? Of course. Cider, in both its hard and nonalcoholic guises, is a natural, seasonal and historic. The United States is making some great dry ciders these days. Beer, too, is fine, though, as with red and white wines, you'll want to provide some choices, say a crisp pilsner and a dark porter, or a pale ale and a stout.