7 Rules To Follow When Thinking About Wine And Thanksgiving
Pairing wine with turkey is silly. But here goes...
Every year, it’s the same story: what wine to pair with the Thanksgiving Day meal. Here’s a newsflash for you: nothing pairs with the Thanksgiving Day meal. Or rather, so many different wines pair with so many different parts of the meal that trying to match one or two to the spread is an exercise in oeno-futility. But you have to drink something, right? We tapped Carla Rzeszewski, the no-nonsense wine director of The Spotted Pig, The Breslin and The John Dory Oyster Bar in New York, for tips on happy Turkey Day drinking without all the pairing malarkey.
“I wonder if it's missing the point entirely,” Rzeszewski says of picking the "perfect wine" for Thanksgiving. “The food of a traditional Thanksgiving is so varied that attempting to find a wine that will pair well with any given dish is probably more trouble than it's worth. I would lean more towards which wines pair best with the family and/or friends in house.” Good call. Here are seven more T-Day wine tips:
1. Don’t be cute. Save the fancy or obscure stuff you break out to impress your wine geek friends and stick to straightforward wines. “This is not the time for you to be bringing orange wines from Slovenia, which could require lengthy explanation in a dining environment that's meant for ease and relaxation,” Rzeszewski warns. And think of the food: sweet potatoes topped with marshmallow fluff isn’t exactly going to benefit from a rare vintage or complex flavor profile. Wine picks: Go for easy-drinking Domaine du Tariquet Classic 2011 ($9), Luis Pato Maria Gomes 2010, Bairrada ($12)
2. Use what you’ve got. “I would bring the last of my rosé that I have kept through the summer, as rosés in general can be extremely useful table-side,” she suggests. Indeed, rosé can be a great answer to the age-old question of what pairs better with turkey, red or white. How about neither! Pink wine is perfect for sipping with snacks before the big feast and just might go with cornbread stuffing and gravy-logged mashed potatoes. Wine picks: Go for Domaine Rimbert “Petit Cochon Bronze” 2011 Rosé ($12), 100% Cinsault “Old School Rosé” 2011 ($16)
3. Pop a cork. People usually associate bubbly with New Year’s Eve, but isn’t the fall harvest reason enough to celebrate? It doesn’t have to be Dom Perignon. In fact, per Tip No. 1, it’s probably better if it isn’t. “I would lean toward a wine with beautiful fruit to drink on its own or alongside the feast,” Rzeszewski recommends. “Like a sparkling Chenin Blanc from the Loire valley or a Lambrusco made in the Champagne method.” Wine picks: Go for Domaine Huet Vouvray Pétillant Brut 2007 ($25), Lini 910 “Labrusca” Rosso NV ($15)
4. For whites, go from lean to fat. “I would bring whites with cut as well as fruit,” our sommelier advises. Like the various dishes on the table (and the folks sitting around it), you’ll want a variety of white wines. For your stern Aunt Dot, a crisp dry German Riesling with razor-sharp acidity. For Grandma and Grandpa, a rounder Oregon Chardonnay. Wine picks: Go for Jakob-Kühn “Stock & Stein” Riesling Trocken 2010 ($18), Eyrie Vineyards Chardonnay 2010 ($25)
5. Avoid big reds. Unless you're serving venison instead of turkey, you can avoid big, jammy, oaky red wines. If you’re serving red, as Rzeszewski advises, you’ll want “fruit on those bad boys.” She elaborates: “I want light and lovable Gamay from Beaujolais, gulpable red fruit and mint-chocolate aromas of light-bodied Cali Zin, and classic Cali Pinot.” Wine picks: Go for Marcel Lapierre “Raisins Gaulois” 2011 ($13), Sky Vineyards Zinfandel 2007 ($30), Hirsch “San Andreas Fault” Pinot Noir 2010 ($60)
6. Serve something to linger over. With so many desserts and sweets and after-dinner treats served at Thanksgiving, it’s a good idea to serve a dessert or fortified wine. In other words, now is the time to break out the port and sherry. A non-sweet option, like dry sherry, is a good idea for guests who don’t have a sweet tooth or prefer to go easy on dessert. “I’d bring along my own private stash of oloroso sherry, with its mushroomy nose and voluptuous palate,” says Rzeszewski. Wine picks: Go for Lustau Almacenista “Pata de Gallina” ($38), Fonseca "Terra Bella" Organic Porto ($21)
7. Digest, damn you! You might be struggling to keep yourself upright at the end of the meal, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t serve a nightcap. A bitter, herbaceous digestivo will help your turkey-filled tummy settle. And if that doesn’t work, go for the strong stuff. And, remember, this is America. So, think global and drink local. Wine picks: Go for Fernet Leopold Amaro ($36), Clear Creek "Apple In The Bottle" Apple Brandy ($60)
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