How is it that “Made in China” plastic Halloween paraphernalia can occupy stores in early September a month before Thanksgiving, two months before Halloween? I guess cobwebs, candies and grotesque costumes are an easier sell than a gratitude-based holiday. Let’s face it: the notion of thanksgiving is a bit of a commercial dud. The advertising industry stokes and thrives on dissatisfaction – one never has enough, therefore you need this….and this……and this. Thanksgiving assumes, for however brief a moment, gratitude-induced contentment.
It’s interesting how wine and gratitude seem to travel together in so many cultures. Someone’s life, some past event or circumstances, some present reunion of acquaintances, friends or family around a meal – all imply gratitude. This is why wine is at its best when it’s communal, when it invites others to share and participate in what we are thankful for. Like other alcoholic beverages, wine is at its worst when it is used for escape and manipulation.
As well, feasting and gratitude often travel together. There’s two turkey times per year in our home: Thanksgiving and Christmas. And while I enjoy the turkey (especially the darker meat), it’s really the other stuff on the plate that gets me salivating: the dressing, the vegetables, the gravy, the salads. In our home, family get-togethers and celebrations like Thanksgiving deserve a nice bottle of wine.
Turkey is a challenge to pair with wine. More accurately, it’s really all the other food items that accompany the turkey that present the “wild card” to good pairing with wine: jellied and nutty salads, creamed turnips and curried beans, lentils, sage with apple dressing, and Aunt Doris’ pickled beets. Wow! How does any one wine dance with all that?!
So from my experience, here are some wine related tips for traditional turkey dinners and wine. First some cautions:
– Generally, big, dense red wines (Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, etc.) are best paired with dense red meats, cheeses and thick cream sauces, not poultry.
– Cranberry and pickles are to wine, what kryptonite is to Superman – deadly. Cranberry acidity and pickles’ vinegar will kill the most exquisite of wines. If they’re on the plate make sure you have some bread or a fork full of potatoes or dressing before you have a swallow of wine.
Here are the kinds of wines that can work nicely:
– Oaked Chardonnays (fermentation and/or maturing takes place in oak barrels) have a fruity and buttery quality
– Bright ripe fruit of quality Rieslings with varying amounts of residual grape sweetness
– Lighter, fruity reds like Pinot Noirs
– Drier style Rosé wines
– Drier style Sparkling wine, etc.