La Maialina Chianti (2008)

Being the one holiday that is truly American, it’s certainly understandable and maybe even the “correct” thing to drink American wine with your bird. Then again, we eat the same food every year, and drink the same drinks every year, so why not mix it up a bit?

From a red wine standpoint, the most common recommendation for Thanksgiving pairings is Pinot Noir, and for good reason. The fruity, acidic components bring a freshness to the plate that almost acts as a palate cleanser to the heavy, rich food so common at the Thanksgiving table.

Just the same, Pinot’s low tannins won’t overpower anything on the plate. Taking a backseat to the food actually one of the most important things to any Thanksgiving pairing. I love wine, but at Thanksgiving, the food really is the star. A wine needs to play second foil. I’m not saying the wine should completely recede (unless you love Pinot Grigio, of course), but that it should be more of a supporting act than the star at this particular meal.

This is why I don’t particularly care for another common Thanksgiving pairing suggestion – Zinfandel. Though this varietal does tend to be quite fruity and not too tannic, it’s often jammy fruit, and lacks the freshness that a rich, often-overcooked meal such as this one so desperately needs. It also tends to be fuller-bodied, which again will only add to the overpowering flavors of of the day.

Thinking about the characteristics that make Pinot such a great pairing (and even the reasons I don’t love Zinfandel), Chianti is another wine that jumps out as a potentially great pairing. I should point out right off the bat that the styles and characteristics of Chianti wines can vary quite a bit – from acidity, tannin, body and oak, there are a wide range of results. However, if you can find one that is bright, acidic, and not too oaky, it will work perfectly with your typical Thanksgiving foods.

One in particular that I’ve recently had is the 2008 La Maia Lina Chianti, the entry level offering from La Maia Lina (they also offer a Chianti Classico and a Chianti Classico Riserva). The Chianti is aged in 100% stainless steel, so the fresh, ripe red fruit is front and center, serving as a great partner to the heavily roasted flavors of turkey and the rich, sweet and/or buttery vegetable sides.

In addition, there’s enough of that classic Chianti herbal earthiness that will pair quite nicely with a stuffing that features Tuscan herbs like sage and rosemary and (of course) some kind of pork product.

Tasting Notes:

Aromas of fresh red fruit with hints of leather and earth. A simple, fruit-forward wine that features cherries, strawberries and cranberries. Medium-bodied, with a vibrant acidity and not much tannin. Not the most complex wine you will come across, but hard to beat for $9.