I confess that autumn is my favourite season. And autumn holds one of my favourite celebrations – Thanksgiving. In my experience three components are necessary for this celebration.
Throughout history the successful picking and crushing of grapes, then making and containing the resultant wine is a source of great celebration. A year’s hard work and waiting is rewarded. Good wines come from vineyards where great attention is paid to (1) growing conditions, (2) healthy plants and soils that are not the victims of chemical company propaganda, (3) winemaking techniques and (4) storage – e.g. many of the world’s better wines are stored in oak barrels and only removed months and sometimes years later for final bottling and sale.
We celebrate the making of wine, and wine helps us celebrate. Wine calls out for sharing – laughter, relaxation and realness with others. And food calls out to wine – the aromas, texture and flavour of food can be a dance partner to wine’s own aromas, flavours and mouth-feel.
Choose your food for this celebration. There’s two turkey times per year in our home: Thanksgiving and Christmas. And while I enjoy turkey (especially the darker meat), it’s really the other stuff on the plate that gets me salivating: the dressing/stuffing, the vegetables, the gravy, the salads.
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, Shiraz, 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
– Smooth soft tannin reds like Chilean Carmenere wines
– Drier style Rosé wines
– Drier style Sparkling wine, etc.
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.
British journalist G.K. Chesterton (early 1900s) noted that the one completely unknown word in the English language was the word “enough.” Thanksgiving assumes, for however brief a moment, gratitude-induced contentment.