Beaujolais for Turkey Day
If it's "red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat," what's a wine lover to do with turkey, a flavorful bird with both white meat and dark?
This is not a trivial issue in North America, where roast turkey is the entree of choice for the Thanksgiving Day feast on the fourth Thursday of November in the U.S. and the second Monday of October for our brothers and sisters in Canada. But it's also a good question around the world, because the big native American bird (which Benjamin Franklin suggested would be a better national symbol than the eagle) has become a popular festive dish just about everywhere.
Turkey makes a challenging wine match not only because it has both light and dark meat, but because its meat has an oily quality that's not always friendly to dry wines.
I call my solution "the cranberry sauce principle." Cranberry sauce is a traditional condiment with turkey because it's both fruity and tart; so choose a wine with similar characteristics -- Beaujolais or Zinfandel if you want a red, or Riesling, Gewurztraminer or Chenin Blanc if you're inclined to a white.
To test this theory further, we stole a march on the holiday season by roasting a turkey last week and trying it - both hot from the oven and as leftovers - with a variety of red and white wines. The results substantiated the theory - two Beaujolais, a Vouvray (Chenin Blanc) and an Australian Riesling all worked reasonably well. But the Beaujolais stood out, both a high-end French model and a modest American nouveau-style wine making tasty, synergistic matches that went beyond merely washing down the food.
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Beaujolais for Turkey Day
Representing the luxury end of the Beaujolais scale, this fine red actually benefits from a bit of aging and is showing better now then when I last tasted it in January. Dark ruby in color, it breathes delicious blueberry and spice aromas and shows full, tart berry fruit and zippy acidity on the palate; dry and full, clean and lasting, it's a well structured and balanced wine. U.S. importer: Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, Calif. (Nov. 12, 1999)
FOOD MATCH: Working exactly like cranberry sauce with roast turkey, its bright fruit and snappy acidity make it a perfect match with both light and dark meat.
Beringer 1999 California "Nouveau" Red Table Wine ($7.59)
FOOD MATCH: The cranberry-sauce principle continues to hold; exuberant fruit and tart-sweet flavor improve our attitude toward leftover turkey, sliced and warmed in leftover gravy.
These reviews are archived, along with two whites that made slightly less memorable matches with turkey, in my online wine notes at www.wine-lovers-page.com/wines/wt111499.shtml.
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Vol. 1, No. 43, Nov. 15, 1999