This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday, Nov. 19, 2007 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20071119.php.
Autumn has finally arrived, the Canadian Thanksgiving feast has come and gone, and many of us are loosening our belts in anticipation of Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. this week, with the Christmas season and all the world's winter holiday feasts soon to follow.
With the annual call, "Gentlefolks, preheat your ovens" ringing in the crisp autumn air, I've heard the seasonal question, "What wine should we serve with roast turkey?" so many times that I've pretty much simmered my standard response down to a concise summation:
DRINK WHAT YOU LIKE. Turkey is a tough match, because it offers both white meat (often bland and sometimes dry) and dark meat (rich, earthy and gamey, distinctly my preference) on the same bird, and it's hard to find a single wine to match them both. Simply set up something extra-special to celebrate the holiday. Don't fret about perfection in wine-and-food pairing for this feast; just enjoy the holiday with an exceptional wine for its own sake.
NOT EITHER-OR BUT BOTH-AND. It's a celebratory feast! Throw caution to the winds and open both a red and a white, offering each guest the option to pick the wine of preference ... or take two glasses and enjoy a little of each.
FOLLOW THE CRANBERRY SAUCE RULE. If you really want to try for a complementary pairing, think about cranberry sauce, the traditional condiment with turkey, and seek wines that show a similar flavor profile: fruity, tart but smooth. This leads us to Riesling, Gewurztraminer or Chenin Blanc for the white; Pinot Noir or Beaujolais for the red. In fact, you might consider the seasonal Beaujolais Nouveau. Although some wine "geeks" dismiss it as too simple and frivolous, in many ways Beaujolais Nouveau is ideal for holiday feasts. It's seasonal, it's fresh, and it's fruity, and it will quaff well enough with light and dark meat, and maybe the dressing and sweet potatoes, too.
CELEBRATE YOUR FAMILY HERITAGE. Some wine enthusiasts feel that Thanksgiving - tracing its inspiration back to the Pilgrims' first harvest feast - should be celebrated with an American wine. Maybe. I don't find most modern Zinfandels with their high alcohol and blockbuster fruit a great match with turkey, though. The American native grape Norton is an interesting possibility, but rare and hard to find. And Concord and its native wild-grape cousins? Fahgeddit. I suggest, rather, looking back to the Old Country and celebrating this American holiday with a salute to our family roots. If you're a "Heinz 57 Varieties" American like me, this opens up a wide variety of choices.
In a weekend test run, using a roasted turkey thigh as the basis for tasting, I went with the Italian option and, after a little experimentation with Langhe Nebbiolo, came up with Dolcetto as a reasonable choice. Although the frequent comparison of Dolcetto to Beaujolais is erroneous, I found the deep, dark plummy fruit and loamy earthiness of today's tasting, along with its distinct tannic texture, worked very well indeed with dark turkey meat in a leftovers dish.
30 Second Wine Advisor - The book!
Over the years, quite a few of you have asked me, "Why don't you assemble a bunch of these articles into a handy learn-about-wine book?"
As I announced in Friday's edition, now, just in time for holiday gift-giving, we've published The 30 Second Wine Advisor: Learn about wine in 30-second tastes - quick, easy & fun."
As the name implies, the book - like this column - breaks wine appreciation down into short, informative articles. Each article doesn't take long to read, but taste by taste, day by day, they build your wine knowledge and enhance your confidence in the sometimes daunting world of fine wine. What's more, your purchase will help support this column and all of WineLoversPage.com, for which you have my grateful thanks.
The 30 Second Wine Advisor is now available in paperback for $19.95, only from Amazon.com. Click to place your order:
A California Tour in a Glass from The California Wine Club!
This month's selection from The California Wine Club features a Napa Valley winemaker blending grapes from prime California vineyards in Paso Robles, Russian River Valley, Mendocino and Lodi. If you've not yet joined the club for yourself, try it now and start your California Wine Adventure with these two unique wines from Ten Mile:
Ten Mile 2005 "California" Proprietary Red Blend The Broken Road - Petite Sirah, Barbera, Zinfandel and Carignane offer notes of white pepper, black fruits and cedar. Enjoy the blast of black cherries and blackberries.
Ten Mile 2006 "California" Proprietary White Blend - Chardonnay, Viognier and Chenin Blanc create this tropical fruit explosion with touches of flower blossoms and great acidity.
Gianfranco Alessandria 2006 Dolcetto d'Alba ($12.99)
Very dark reddish-purple, almost black, clear garnet at the edge. Deep black fruit and earth, subtle mineral scents that evoke damp stones and black loam. Black plums on the palate, fresh and dry, shaped by the firm, fine-grained tannic astringency that is Dolcetto's trademark, a textural component that seems to work particularly well with turkey dark meat. U.S. importer: Vanguard Wines LLC, Columbus, Ohio. (Nov. 18, 2007)
FOOD MATCH: Leftover turkey dark meat, cubed and browned, cooked with fresh broccoli and a dash of cumin in a simple pilaf.
VALUE: Comparative shopping on Wine-Searcher.com suggests I got a bargain for a change: Excellent value in the lower teens, fairly priced at its more frequent tag in the middle teens.
WHEN TO DRINK: I've had little success aging Dolcetto, which seems to lose its fruit and go to 100 percent earth after two or three years. Drink up this year or next.
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This week on WineLoversPage.com
Bucko's Wine Reports: Tried and true
Oxford Town Wine: Stupid wine gizmos
Our Internet radio "TalkShoe": Beaujolais Nouveau: What's New?
WineLovers Discussion Group: Suggestions for inexpensive Turkey Day wines?
Netscape/Compuserve Community Poll: Wine choice with holiday turkey?
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
30 Second Wine Advisor - The book (Nov. 16, 2007)
Another face of Sauvignon Blanc (Nov. 14, 2007)
Can Cotes-du-Rhone age? (Nov. 12, 2007)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Uptown shrimp and grits (Nov. 15, 2007)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive: