Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009: Bubbly and More!

"What wine should I serve on Thanksgiving?" This is always the most frequently asked question of me leading up to turkey day. Wine selection can be challenging with the wide variety of flavors and dishes at our traditional feast. Cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, stuffing, scalloped oysters, and the star of the show, turkey, blend sweet, creamy, savory, herbaceous, earthy, and spice into a state of culinary chaotic nirvana. So what wine(s) can we serve to cut through and compliment this cornucopia of tastes? Fortunately, there are a multitude of options to pick from. Because of the host of flavors and individual preferences (and prejudices), a mix of white and red is preferred. Here are my varietal and regional thoughts concluding with my grand pick of 2009. As for specific domaines or wineries, your local wine merchant can ably assist you. My suggestions are in no way intended to be exhaustive. Please comment with your own recommendations.

Thanksgiving lends itself to a broad choice of fun and interesting white alternatives. Any of these can also play the aperitif role. I often begin dinner with a spicy (red pepper and cumin) butternut squash or pumpkin soup. Last year I served a German Spatlese Riesling with the spicy soup. Surprisingly, this was selected as the star of the evening by my dinner companions. The elegant sweetness of the Spatlese neutralizes the fire of the soup while the the spiciness lessens the sweetness. Simply lovely.

There are many other white wines that can be served throughout the entire dinner. Spicy Gewurztraminer has always been a classic Thanksgiving wine. Strong consideration goes to Riesling, particularly German Kabinett. The 2007 vintage in German was outstanding and offers fair value. Wines from Alsace, France are ideal partners including Riesling, Pinot Gris and/or Pinot Blanc (my aperitif pick). My Oregon friends can be heard screaming rightfully for Oregon Pinot Gris. Also a wonderful choice. In his fourth quarter issue of Burghound, Allen Meadows raved about 2007 and 2008 Chablis (Chardonnay). The limestone chalkiness of Chablis proves a zesty match with oysters.

Now for a wine with a different color, a top Red vin is essential for me on Thanksgiving. Light and medium body wines seem to work best. Pinot Noir is the obvious preference. The wide range of Pinot Noir styles all seem to work for different reasons. The more fruit present Pinot Noir of California and Oregon mirror the fruit flavors of our feast. Yet, Burgundy compliments the earthy and savory. In recent years Burgundy usually finds it way into my glass.

Because Thanksgiving is an exclusive American holiday, there are justified proponents of the true native varietal, Zinfandel. Who would argue? It's lush fruit can be Zinful. There is an exciting universe of options, notably among the "Rs" of Zin--Ridge, Ravenswood and Rosenbloom.

Other considerations are from France's Loire Valley (Cabernet Franc), Cotes du Rhone and Cru Beaujolais. For my after dinner beached whale imitation, a glass of Pedro Ximenez from Spain with pumpkin pie is certain to export me to a dreamy world. In the likely event an emergency digestive is required, a bottle of Armagnac will be nearby. Alternatively, a little Bourbon on the rocks can toast my Kentucky heritage.

Now, Here is my grand overall pick.

In 2009 you had to be living under a rock to not be challenged by the downturn in the global economy, whether it was for yourself, a dear friend or a beloved family member. In honor of the woes of 2009, my pick is Rose Champagne (or sparkling wine). Bubbly is a classic match for turkey and all that goes with Thanksgiving. For the value minded (all of us), the highly respected Ghislaine de Montegolfier, president of the Union des Maisons de Champagne and president of Champagne Bollinger (one of my personal faves) stated in the December issue of Decanter, "You can be sure some excellent Champagne will be available at competitive prices, thanks to a succession of stellar vintages and a fall in demand brought about by the economic crisis...Champagne houses will be doing what they can to boost sales this Christmas, so you can expect some attractive offers."

After all Napoleon is credited with saying about Champagne, "In victory we deserve it. In defeat we need it." Regardless if it is deserving or needed, we should all expect Champagne this year... or anytime.

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