Wines to be thankful for this season...

Cycle's Pinot and St Michelle Chard.

Cycle's Pinot and St Michelle Chard. - Credit: Archant

There are many festive occasions to look forward to in the coming months, starting off with American Thanksgiving Day on Thursday November 24.

Always held on the fourth Thursday in November, this has been a tradition in the United States since 1863 when during the Civil War President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the celebrating of a national day of thanksgiving.

The first Thanksgiving Feast lasted three days and provided food for 13 pilgrims and 90 Native Americans and included fish, shellfish, wild fowl, venison, berries, fruit and vegetables.

The classic menu for Thanksgiving in current times includes starters such as butternut squash soup or salad, followed by a turkey with a full flavoured stuffing and gravy with side dishes including green bean casserole, spicy sprouts, sweet potato bake and macaroni cheese. The favourite desserts are pecan pie and pumpkin bread pudding.

Initially, trying to find wines to complement the mélange of flavours in these dishes can seem to be quite a challenge but the key to finding a good food and wine match is identifying the key ingredient and how it’s cooked.

To accompany butternut squash soup or other root vegetables such as parsnips, carrots etc a rounded and textured white wine is good, such as a New World Chardonnay. This might include Chateau Ste Michelle in Washington State, US, Te Mata in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand or Rustenberg in Stellenbosch, South Africa with their lovely mouthfilling textures, tropical fruit and vanilla flavours.

The main course is full of different flavours and although turkey is the main element the strongest flavours will come from the herbs and spices used to flavour the side dishes and the sauces where the cranberry fruits for example provide extra flavour dimensions that need to be considered.

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Often the best solution in such a situation is to start with your favourite style of red or white wine and consider if that or something similar will complement the flavours.

If you like claret this will stand up in strength of flavour but not style because of the obvious tannins whereas a Californian Cabernet such as that from Hahn Estates or the Cycles Gladiator Pinot Noir with its rounder softer ripe fruit notes will be a kinder match.

Some of the ripe fruity California Zinfandels with briary damson notes such as that from Delicato or Dry Creek are also worth trying. White wines need to be big wines to match all the main course flavours so try a Californian Chardonnay such as that Hahn Estates in Monterey or a fabulous mouthfilling Limoux Chardonnay with soft rich ripe fruits.

For dessert the luscious richness of pecan or pumpkin pie can overwhelm a light elegant sweet wine so go for something with enough complexity and richness to match it. This can be found in a botrytis Semillon such as the Deen de Bortoli Vat 5 or its big brother Noble One from Australia, the Yalumba Museum Muscat or an Olorosos sherry such as the Gonzalez Byass Solera 1847 or the Matusalem Oloroso Dulce.