It arrived rather quickly, but those of us who haven't already moved on to Christmas are making preparations for Thanksgiving Day. It's one of my favorite holidays; I get to eat, drink, and watch football in a larger quantity than I would on any autumn Sunday. I love how the air smells; it is filled with all kinds of sweet and savory goodness. It's many of the usual suspects for the majority of us, right? Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, veggies, and pies are typical, but if you aren't a turkey fan, or a meat eater at all, there might be some other items coming out of the oven or perhaps off of a barbecue.
Nevertheless, the blitz of food needs some tasty beverages to help keep everything moving. While I know beer, cocktails, and sippin' spirits are all delicious, the scope of today's post is to help you find some good wine options. With Thanksgiving serving as our first major feast day of the cold weather months, chances are you will be bringing out a ton of different food options, including the ones I mentioned above. So how do you go about choosing a good wine for foods that will taste rich, savory, herbaceous, fruity, and so on? Here is one basic rule of thumb to follow:
Keep it simple.
I know that's a vague statement on my part, but honestly it holds true here. You will have so many aromas, flavors and textures fighting one another on your plate that you need a wine to bring it all together. It should typically be one that has plenty of acidity (to help you digest large volumes of food), straightforward fruitiness, and body (to harmonize everything on the plate). Certain parts of the meal are enhanced even more if the wine has an interesting spice or floral note. On the other end of the spectrum, if you are looking to break out that super-expensive bottle from the cellar, Thanksgiving dinner isn't necessarily the time for that. The high-end wines that have a ton of complex flavors never get the chance to stand out. Save the special bottle for a simple-yet-elegant dinner (you will see what I mean when I do my Christmas post. Trust me, so stay tuned).
For example, Italian wines can have a pleasant herbaceousness or anise spice. Pinot Noir that spends time in French oak imparts a range of baking spices like cinnamon and cloves. Pinot Gris has some body and texture to help stand up to the rich foods, as well as a floral quality. Riesling's strong aromatics and inherent fruity/floral quality makes it versatile enough to play with all parts of the meal. Beaujolais wines are berry-scented and versatile with plenty of acidity to make your mouth water. I mean, even the candy-like Beaujolais Nouveau (which the wine academic types sneer at) is perfect for just staying lubricated during marathon eating sessions. Of course, the easiest fallback option is to grab some sparkling wine, which I acknowledge is "cheating" when it comes to pairing, but what's a feast without bubbles?
Additionally, if you are looking to try something different, look to Sherry or Saké. Dry Sherry has nutty and savory characteristics and is the magic potion for dealing with difficult-to-pair foods like nuts, olives, and green foods. Light and dry Saké does very well with salty snacks and appetizers. For more details on exploring this route, you should go visit my friend The Passionate Foodie, who has great ideas on how to approach these two wine styles with Thanksgiving dinner.
So let's get to some recommendations! These are all well-made wines from producers who I respect. I hope you seek some of these out and give them a try.
Domaine de la Prebende Beaujolais ($15): Fermented in both stainless steel and concrete tanks, this is a fruity red wine that will give you the versatility you need, with that touch of sweet spice that makes this wine feel like fall in a glass.
Willamette Valley Vineyards "Whole Cluster" Pinot Noir ($24): This is a wine that gives you the fruitiness of a Beaujolais wine plus a range of earthy spice and coffee that Oregon Pinot Noir can provide. Willamette Valley Vineyards ferments whole bunches of grapes, using the carbonic maceration method that is popular in the Beaujolais region. A different expression of Pinot Noir that will do its duty at the dinner table.
Hillersden Marlborough Pinot Gris ($18): New Zealand has become overwhelmingly well-known for its distinct Sauvignon Blancs, but let's also get to know their other wines! Here is a copper-hued Pinot Gris from vines that reached optimal maturity for producing quality wine. Citrus and stone fruit flavors dominate, with brief "sur-lie" aging to round out the texture and counteract the acidity. Very clean and refreshing.
Charles Bove Touraine Sparkling Rosé ($19): You can always go with a Cava or a Prosecco for something simple and bubbly, but lets go with something pink. This is 70% Cabernet Franc, 30% Gamay...and 100% awesome. The combination of aromatics and fruit marries so well with the 18 months lees aging, giving you a sparkler that gives you a great feel for traditional method wines in the Loire Valley. Fresh, fruity, and bone-dry, this is one to enjoy all day long.
Conte Vistarino Sangue di Giuda Costiolo, ($19): Don't forget about dessert! Literally translating to "Blood of Judas," this sweet wine is a specialty of the Oltrepo Pavese region of Lombardy. This is a blend of Barbera, Croatina, and Uva Rara, all plentifully found in this growing zone of Italy. Think of this as a lighter Port wine, where the alcohol is far lower at around 7% abv. This is a very lively wine with plenty of acidity, bursting with berry fruit, finishing clean and without a sticky, cloying sensation. Give it a shot with an apple-cranberry or blueberry pie!