Thanksgiving Day wines
Hoping that all of you in the U.S. enjoyed a fine holiday dinner yesterday and, for that matter, that those of you around the rest of the world enjoyed something good to eat and drink for dinner too, let's wrap up this week - Friday being an extra day off for many of us - with a quick review of the wines I opened for Thanksgiving dinner and its eve.
Our dinner was a casual one, spent at the home of friends, with the traditional turkey and trimmings. Rather than open anything rare or expensive, I followed my own advice and brought a couple of wines I've recommended as good matches for turkey and the good things that go along with it: A fruity and tart young Barbera from Italy's Piedmont; and a reprise of the fine New York State Riesling that I served with last year's Thanksgiving dinner.
Both went well with the dinner. The Riesling was arguably a finer, more complex wine in its own right, but I found myself gravitating back to the Italian red with the turkey ... its good balance of fruit and acidity was just right for a food wine, while the turkey, gravy and side dishes seemed to heighten the nearly dry Riesling's naturally steely acidity.
The night before, for a quiet evening at home, we launched December's Wine Tasting 101 a few days early, opening an exceptionally good, and reasonably affordable, Vintage Character Port. Although Vintage Character sells in the same general price range as the widely available non-vintage Ruby Ports, this one from Quinta do Noval showed significantly elevated character, making it an unusually fine value in an affordable dessert wine.
BUYING THESE WINES
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Castelvero 2001 Piemonte Barbera ($9.99)
This Northwestern Italian red shows dark ruby in the glass, with reddish-orange glints. Caramel and red-fruit aromas mix in its simple, warm aroma; its flavor seems soft at first, luscious cherry fruit that gains structure as snappy acidity firms it up in the finish. Simple but pleasant, a natural companion with food. U.S. importer: Vias Imports Ltd., NYC. (Nov. 27, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Its forward fruit and sufficient acidity seemed just right with Thanksgiving Day turkey and trimmings.
VALUE: Fair at this price, but I've seen it widely advertised on the Web for several dollars less than I paid, so shop around.
WHEN TO DRINK: Not a wine to be cellared, although it should last a year or two on the wine rack.
WEB LINK: The importer's fact sheet on this wine, with links to distributors in the U.S., is online at
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2001 New York Dry Johannisberg Riesling ($14.99)
This is a clear straw-color wine with a slight greenish hue. Typical Riesling scents of apples and pine have gained complexity during a year in the bottle, adding a distinct minerally "petrol" character. Crisp apples predominate in the flavor, ripe and full, with slight sweetness masked by tart, steely lemon-citric acidity. Adds weight to my opinion that the cooler regions of the Eastern U.S. and Canada, not the vine-growing West Coast, make the better environment for quality Riesling. (Nov. 27, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: The wine's flavors were just right with roast turkey; its steely, tart acidity was properly cleansing but seemed to dominate the food.
VALUE: While $15 seems fair for a Riesling of this quality, I can't help but notice that the same wine sold locally for $3 less at this time last year.
WHEN TO DRINK: It has gained complexity and flavor interest over the past year, demonstrating Riesling's natural ageworthiness. I wouldn't hesitate to hold it for a few more years, assuming good cool storage conditions.
WEB LINK: Here's the winery Website:
Noval non-vintage "LB" Porto ($16.99)
Very dark garnet color with reddish-purple glints. It's rather simple in aroma, vinous black fruit; but the first taste takes it to the next level, with dark chocolate and fragrant black pepper - pleasantly reminiscent of pepper-dusted Christmas cookies - backed by subtle dried-cherry fruit. Sweet but not cloying, fresh-fruit sugars are well balanced by a snappy acidic "grip." It's lighter in the mouth than Vintage Port, but smooth and warming; if it's not as complex as the high-price item, it's ready for drinking now, certainly more approachable and easy to enjoy than an immature sample of the "real thing," at a fraction of the price ... and it doesn't need decanting. U.S. importer: William Grant & Sons, NYC. (Nov. 26, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Sipped by itself as an after-dinner drink. Traditional accompaniments include nuts, Cheddar or blue (especially Stilton) cheese.
VALUE: Very good value indeed, as an affordable alternative to Vintage Port.
WHEN TO DRINK: Unlike Vintage Port, it doesn't need aging and may not really benefit from storage time; but it will keep safely for years if you wish to do so.
WEB LINK: Here's a link to Quinta do Noval's Website entry page, with links for Flash or non-Flash presentations:
Recommended wine book:
New Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia
From time to time during the holiday season I'll feature wine-related books that I consider of particular interest, for your consideration as gifts to wine-loving friends ... or yourself. Should you choose to purchase these books from Amazon.com using the hotlinks provided, we'll earn a small commission for WineLoversPage.com, helping us pay the rent.
Today's recommended book, Tom Stevenson's New Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia, is one of my favorite weighty wine-reference books, a thorough compendium of the world of wine, organized in alphabetical detail. It's a worthy alternative (or addition) to my other favorite large wine encyclopedia, Jancis Robinson's Oxford Companion to Wine, which does not appear to be currently in regular stock at Amazon.com. New Sotheby's particular strength, in comparison to Oxford, is its strong focus on specific wines and producers, which makes it useful as both a reference source and wine-buying guide.
Although a bit heavily focused on France (which occupies more than 250 of the book's 600 pages) in contrast with Oxford's more balanced international coverage, it's still thorough, well written and organized. Highly recommended.
New Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia,
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Friday, Nov. 28, 2003