A Time to Wine

6 11 2009

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”- Ecclesiastes 3:1

I think one of the reasons I love this time of year, apart from the weather, is that it feels to me to be the time of the year for a bit of reflection. Perhaps that’s just the spirit of Thanksgiving reaching out to tap me on the shoulder like one of Scrooge’s Christmas Eve visitors. Halloween is gone, the veil thickens and it’s time to turn our heads forward-looking again-but not without a bit of the perspective and knowledge we’ve gained from looking back. We move on from the Dead and focus on celebration, sharing and giving Thanks with family and those we call friends. With those deliberations, the Thanksgiving feast is planned.

With Thanksgiving a special Holiday (it usually is for those of us food-centric types) it amazes me how often the complementing drink is an uninspired afterthought. A great beverage pairing can lift a good meal to an unforgettable experience. With as much work as I put into the Thanksgiving meal, I want it to be something everyone remembers-with good thoughts. When creating meal pairings, there are two options: pair food with a wine or pair a wine with the food. Since the Thanksgiving menu is determined by the food, I use the latter. To give you an idea, here’s a sample of the upcoming Thanksgiving menu:

Potato and Leek Soup

  • Hickory Smoked Turkey with Pumpkin Cornbread Stuffing and Giblet Gravy
  • Roasted Butternut Squash with Pomegranate
  • Pickled Beets
  • Wilted Red Chard
  • Mashed Potatoes with Mustard Vinaigrette and Country Ham

Sweet Potato Crème Brûlée

As noted by many sommeliers, a Thanksgiving dinner can be problematic because of the many different flavor profiles. Among the professionals, recommendations  include a fruity Zinfandel, a dry sparkling Shiraz or other dry bubbly Champagne (let’s face it, with Champagne it’s really a question of what’s not good with it). I think all of these are excellent, and I highly recommend them. Yet I have a seasonal favorite that to me is just perfect for the dinner; Beaujolais Nouveau.

On the third Thursday of November (no earlier by French law) each year the first new wine of the harvest heads to Paris for worldwide shipment. About half the region’s total wine production (about 65 million bottles) will be distributed for immediate consumption. This wine, unlike many others, is meant to be consumed immediately. Weeks ago it was but a cluster of grapes upon the vine, now it is literally the new wine.

I find this wine particularly appealing for Thanksgiving because it is about as close as a red wine gets to a white wine. Because of the way it is made, the normally astringent tannins found in red wine are essentially absent. This leaves an easily quaffable, fruity red wine that matches perfectly with a menu such as the one above. Additionally, because in the South the weather can still be a  bit on the warm side, this red wine can be served (and it is often recommended to do so) slightly chilled. It is a light, fun complement and should satisfy any wine drinker at the table; a perfect ingredient to create a memorable Thanksgiving experience. And for anyone at the table for whom the wine is “not sophisticated enough”, well you know exactly what who to eliminate from the menu guest list next year.




2 responses

6 11 2009

I agree….that is a fabulous wine choice for Thanksgiving!! Excellent!

8 11 2009

That is a lovely choice to complement a Thanksgiving feast. And for wine lovers, as we go around the Holiday Table and enumerate those things we’re most thankful for, we can add “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!” Question: any thoughts/recipes for Hot Mulled Wine? Beats hot chocolate on a chilly evening!

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