I have a basic rule for wine and food pairing, Number One: Simple food with complex wine, and vice versa, complex food with simple wine. There are perfect wine and food matches like goat's cheese with Sancerre (a wonderful Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley) or a fine aged Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux or Napa with roast lamb. After that, there are many other guidelines I use to pair wine and food. For example, if a dish has acidity from lemon or other citrus, you need a wine that has an equal amount of acid or the wine will taste flat.
So what is the perfect wine for the Thanksgiving meal? The answer is there isn't one wine, but two or three might do the job! Think about it, this is a complex meal with a wide variety of flavors and aromas. How do you match cranberry sauce, sauerkraut, white and dark turkey meat, sweet potatoes and green beans?
You do it by remembering rule Number One and following a few basic guidelines.Stay away from tannin and astringent wines, big full- bodied wines that are high in alcohol, and wines that are heavily oaked. All will clash with a variety of flavors on the table. These include barrel fermented Chardonnay, fine Bordeaux and New World Cabernet Sauvignon, Barolo and Big Aussie Shiraz (too alcoholic).Choose a wine(s) that is fairly fruity and medium bodied. This will complement the white and dark meat without overpowering the lighter sides. A little sweetness in a white wine is good, but not too sweet, as it will make some foods taste bitter. Both red and white wines should have adequate acidity to cut through the fat.
Here's a few suggestions:
My first choice is a German Riesling that is off dry. Schuman-Nagler Rheingau Riesling 2006 ($12.99) has a hint of sweetness, good backbone and 11% alcohol. Take a bite of cranberry sauce with dark turkey meat, then take a sip. Kerpen's Wehlener Sonnenheur Kabinett 2005 ($18.99) is gorgeous with a little more acid and slight steely edge. Many people love GewÅrztraminer on this holiday. It has a spicyness that compliments the food and can be off-dry. Try Alexander Valley Vineyards New Gewurz for only about ten bucks.
A fruity style Pinot Noir works well, especially one that has little or no oak. McManis California 2006 or Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster 2006 are both fruit forward style wines, with soft textures and enough flavor to hold up to the meal.
Red Zinfandel can work well, but be careful --some are very high in alcohol. Girasole Vineyards 2004 from Lake County is a nice easy style with brambly fruit flavors from organic grown grapes and not too much kick (14.3%). Fratelli Revello Dolcetto d'Alba 2005 is a beautifully made, medium bodied, juicy red with nice raspberry and cherry flavors. Carlo Revello is a modernist from Piedmont and a highly skilled winemaker.
Beaujolais Nouveau actually works well with its big fruit flavors, low tannins and mass appeal. If you're on a budget and want an amazing red that has good fruit and spice, low tannins and is just plain delicious, try Vina Borgia from Campo de Borja in Spain 2006 at $10 for a 1.5 liter. Tough to beat.
I like to start my meal with some sparkling wine. My crowd likes Prosecco di Conegliano, a nice sparkling wine made near Venice. Since it's made via the bulk process (later lesson) it doesn't have those yeasty flavors and will actually work well with the meal. An extra dry champagne which has a hint of sweetness could also be great as it has nice acidity and bubbles to cleanse the palate. Remember since there are so many flavors on the table no wine will match perfectly, so I recommend two or three choices and see what happens.Whatever you choose I hope your holiday is great and the turkey is moist!
If you have any questions about wine, or have a favorite Thanksgiving wine, please let me know. Just email me.
Stan Bliden, the second-generation owner of Midway Liquors on Pulaski Highway in Joppa, grew up in the wine business. His passion from early on has been wine and he is "continually amazed" by how much there is to learn about the subject. You can reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org