November 19, 2008
Classic Thanksgiving Wines
Denver Post Food Editor Tucker Shaw asked me to come up with some classic wine matches for his classic Thanksgiving feast. This article appeared as part of that package in the Denver Post.
Sparkling Wine: You can't go wrong here. Sparkling wine is the stuff of celebration, a sign it's time to relax and party. So forget about your quibbling inlaws, the overcooked brussels sprouts, or the kids fighting over the wishbone, and pop that cork. (Carefully — it really can take an eye out.) The high acidity in sparkling wine also happens to give it the ability to match with a wide range of foods — very fitting in the face of a classic Thanksgiving spread. For bang for the buck as well as the right balance of fruity flavor and bright acidity in the face of cranberry sauce and sweet potato pie, I'd lean towards Italy's Prosecco — Adami, Bisol, Mionetto and Nino Franco are all good bets at under $20.
Beaujolais: One reason Beaujolais is popular at Thanksgiving is because the heavily hyped Beaujolais Nouveau arrives in the market the week before the holiday. There's also something wonderful about being able to pour a seasonal wine with a seasonal repast. The wine's youth means it's light and juicy, with lots of acidity and barely any tannin, so it matches everything from creamed onions to the turkey's dark meat. This vintage is notable for being the year that the major Beaujolais producers decided to go green: Georges Duboeuf is massively reducing his carbon footprint by shipping a portion of his wines by sea rather than air, and Boisset is putting its juice into lightweight plastic bottles.
Zinfandel: If there is any wine that we can consider truly American, it'd be Zinfandel. Like all other major wine grapes, this one came over from Europe, but it's taken to California's soils like it finally found home. It can produce wines that range from light rosés to black, brooding monsters, although the best ones for this all-American feast tend to be the lighter reds (or the spicy, rich red dessert styles with dessert). Look to cooler corners of California, like the North Coast, where Clos du Bois makes its frisky zin, or Mendocino, where Dynamite Vineyards and Fife produce good candidates for the Thanksgiving table at less than $20.