BY RICK RIOZZA
Don’t we just love the comradery between those who plan and structure the holiday meals and those who imagine the wines to complete the banquet? Often times we’re blessed to joyously share both those devotions; and the more souls involved in the thought processes—the better!
Indeed—its sounds like a great idea to gather those so interested at a pre-prepping table, laid out with some cheeses & breads and a little wine to coax our culinary campaigns. If some of your family and friends are not in town yet, well I’m sure there’s a willing proxy who’ll sample the table and share their two cents or so.
Everyone knows that the Thanksgiving table has the potential panoply of various tastes, textures, flavors and aromas. A daunting task for some perhaps—others with a little cheese and wine in their bellies are game and looking forward to it.
So here’s the spread—kind of sort of: From appetizers to white and dark turkey meat, ham, mashed potatoes, yams, herb-filled stuffing or dressing, cranberry relish, green vegetable mélange with different sauces, a surprise dish here, a traditional portion there, all the way to pumpkin, apple or pecan pie. Goodness gracious—I am ready for that menu du jour again.
Now we can spoil all the hunt and drama of working through and pondering what wine will succeed and keep the guests happy, by simply suggesting one fine wine that’s reasonably priced. So if you don’t have the time to glean through this article, let’s cut to the chase:
A rosé bubbly, because sparkling wines bring both elegance and phenomenal food-pairing versatility to virtually any meal. There’s a decent dose of acidity, which amps the pairing potential, while adding a festive flair to the table—it gets everyone smiling!. Of course it will be a brut sparkler, for its cleansing nature, and, why not make it a dry (brut) rosé bubbly; we know rosés can pretty much pair well with any dish, so too— rosé sparkling wine. And a good rosé sparkler is a happy meeting point between your red wine and white wine aficionados.
A couple of years ago I tried this out: All I provided to our Thanksgiving guests was the Louis Bouillot Crémant Du Bourgogne Brut Rosé, which sells for about $18 a bottle. Chilled up all day, it was a great choice for a pre-Thanksgiving aperitif: The alcohol level is low and worked for watching football, munching and talking without the bloat of a beer; next, for the meal itself, it was bold enough to pair with the poultry and comfort dishes; the wine’s strawberry, raspberry and cranberry notes were perfect for the fruit side of things; and again, an ideal cleanser to the rich gravies and meats.
To boot! I served this rosé sparkler as a beverage dessert on its own. I heard no complaints of desiring a red or white—everyone was grateful for a festive bubbly all day long.
On the other side of things, we vino enthusiasts also love trying some wines we’ve been thinking about and now it’s a perfect time to share. And most vino guests will indeed bring over a bottle or two to share their likes as well. Just mention it, and most will be eager to contribute.
For certain, there are some tried and true favorite wines that perform well on Thanksgiving. Let me mention some of the red and white varietals and the reasoning therein.
Pinot Noir: A traditional favorite for Thanksgiving. Its subtle earthy undertones and often mushroom-inspired flavors surround the fruit of the wine and complement the traditional flavors of both dark & white turkey, stuffing, and cranberry flavors. Good deals everywhere!
Zinfandel: A heartier red wine than a pinot noir that still maintains a balancing effect on many traditional Thanksgiving side dishes. Look for this wine to amplify spices such as clove, cinnamon, and allspice, working bitter and sweet flavors. It often adds a touch of smokiness to the taste profile, thus pairs well with dark meat turkey. I recommend the medium-bodied Zins from Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma.
Syrah/Shiraz: The Syrah grape can bring a spicy edge or a meaty character to the table, often increasing the complexity but handling the cornucopia of flavors of the holiday meal. The peppery notes of Syrah partner well with the herb-infused stuffing and both the white and dark turkey meat. Firestone Winery produces a nice Syrah for just a few bucks.
Beaujolais: This is a wonderful and perhaps a serendipitous choice for the perfectly timed arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau on the 3rd Thursday in November. The mildly trendy “Nouveau” is more a party wine—the Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Villages, and the Cru Beaujolais are the recommended, from the Gamay grape with similarities to Pinot Noir. It pairs exceptionally well with wild rice, salads, roasted squash, and cranberries. It balances the dinners that have a high sweetness factor (yams, etc.) with savory and earthy quality. Its lighter and less tannic style works well with white meat turkey.
Look for a 2015 vintage. For a “Cru” selection, find a Fleurie, Brouilly, or Morgon
A part from their favorite Sauv Blanc and Chardonnay (enjoyed throughout the year) white wine lovers will often choose a Riesling or Gevurst for this occasion.
Riesling: A white wine that can either be bone dry—German Kabinetts, or the variedly sweet, such as the Washington State labels that will indicate sweetness. Excellent with any dishes that are spicy, salty, or, sweet—dessert! Riesling’s innate flavors of apple, apricot and honey and its clarifying acidity give it a significant pairing edge with the likes of sweet potatoes, turkey meat, and spice-laden or herb-filled stuffing.
Gewurztraminer: Definitely for wine enthusiasts, and the “dry” version for the wine liberals in our rank who dare for aromatic gusto & spiciness, like lychee notes; ties in the turkey and gravy, bringing out the best in both.
And, as we always mention: The most important thing to bring to the table, of course, is a humble and grateful heart. Bon Appétit! & Cheers!