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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thanksgiving Wine Column

This one will be coming out in the Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune Thursday, so I'm scooping myself (and my co-author).

It's a very revised and expanded version of my first Thanksgiving beverage post on this blog. And you'll notice that I incorporated the advice K8 mentions in her comment. It was good advice.

Choosing Thanksgiving Wine (and Why It’s So Difficult)

Every year about this time, food and lifestyle magazines and TV shows begin the desperate, ritual flailing that is the search for the perfect Thanksgiving wine. Why? Because this industry depends on (among other things) its ability to give good, simple advice, which, when it comes to finding a trusty Thanksgiving wine, is about as easy as writing a one-sentence summary of War and Peace.

That’s why, recently, we’ve seen dozens of wines—practically the gamut of whites, rosés, and reds—recommended as the ideal choice for Thanksgiving. Still, we do have some general advice—beyond, of course, just going with beer or cider (though we wouldn’t fault you for that).

If you can afford it, let your guests choose from a range of wines. Two whites and two reds (one full-bodied, one light-to-medium-bodied in each category) will virtually ensure that there’s a wine available to please every palate. And if you really want to be thorough, throw in a crisp, dry rosé. (Some guests may also want to try different wines with different courses, if there are courses.)

But holidays are expensive, and we understand that you may want to save money by finding one good pairing for the meal. If so, then the first thing to do is to throw taste out the window. You’ll never find a perfect match for the combined flavors of turkey, sweet potatoes (with or without marshmallows), mashed potatoes, stuffing (which itself can contain half of your pantry), green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce.

In place of flavor, we recommend you focus on the weight of the meal. Since it is rich, filling, and rustically-textured (if a Christmas crown rib with demi-glace is a satin gown, turkey with gravy is a flannel lumberjack shirt) a typical Thanksgiving meal can benefit greatly from a streamlined, crisp, and elegantly-styled wine—one with enough acidity to cut through the richness of the food and cleanse your palate between bites.

What wines fit this bill? Just about any style or varietal known for high acidity, if it is done well, is a good option here: sauvignon blanc and riesling stand out as obvious choices for whites, while pinot noir and Chianti (sangiovese) stand out among the reds.

But the best option of all, in our opinion, is one with bubbles, like Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, or a nice Champagne-style sparkler from California. The heady effervescence and almost poignant acidity of a good sparkler will make the whole meal—maybe the whole day!—seem lighter and fresher.

Then maybe, just maybe, you’ll make it through the first half of the Lions’ game before drifting off to dreams of sugarplums and the next holiday’s bacchanalia. And, of course, you can look forward to our column about that one, too.

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