Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Great Wines for Thanksgiving

The second-largest eating day is upon us. Unlike the largest – the Super Bowl – people tend to agree that Thanksgiving is a meal that is best paired with wine. Unless you have reservations to the French Laundry, it is also the only time of the year that people will make a cross-country trip for the purpose of eating dinner.

Given the traditional meal of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, etc., the question really becomes what wine to serve? Pinot Noir has long been popular, and given its versatility, elegance and lighter-body, it is fast becoming the standard for Thanksgiving.

Why Butterball is still the safest bet

Don’t let the fact that this is the most American of holidays deter you from drinking a wine made abroad. New Zealand, Chile and France – Pinot Noir’s home – all make great Pinots that all go extremely well with Thanksgiving. Indeed, wines from these areas range in price, quality and flavor but all can match-up to the turkey and trimmings.

From New Zealand, The Crossings is a very light Pinot Noir. It is easy-drinking with cherries and a nice minerality on the finish. It is a very well-made Pinot Noir, though the tartness of the finish may turn off some people.

If you’re looking for a wine with a little more body and spice, give the Llai Llai from Chile a try. It is a little less expensive than the Crossings and is also a bit more versatile and appealing for crowds.

Speaking of appealing to crowds, we went to Graceland over Thanksgiving last year. Above is Elvis' Jungle Room where The King ate many a turkey leg

That’s not to say that Pinot Noir is the only thing to serve this Thanksgiving. After all, what would a celebration be without bubbles? I find it amusing that sparkling wine producers spend 42 weeks out of the year trying to convince people that sparkling wines are not just for holidays and celebrations. Starting around Halloween, though, the emphasis is on how it isn’t really a celebration or a holiday without sparkling wine.

Marketing aside, sparkling wines make a great addition to any table. Gone are the days when you had to spend a boatload for bubbles. Jaillance produces some of the best sparkling wines that France makes that aren’t from Champagne - though the flavor profiles are very similar. Ranging from toasty, buttery and dry to very sweet, you can find something for every palette for under $15.

If you want to spend even less on something festive, get a few bottles of Cava. These sparklers from Spain offer the best value in sparkling wine – if not wine period – that you can get these days.

Of course, what would this post be without giving a shout-out to Virginia wines? One of the best options to serve something local this year would be Chambourcin. Many of the ones I have tasted recently – from Fabbioli Cellars to Notaviva to Hidden Brook are easy-drinking, medium-bodied and loaded with cherry and cranberry flavors.

Doug Fabbioli of Fabbioli Cellars with his Chambourcin Vines
Whatever you choose to serve this year, make sure you have plenty on hand, and have a happy and safe Thanksgiving. 

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