Drink / Food

Reds with your bird

How to pair red wines with the Thanksgiving feast

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, a gathering of friends and family to share a large meal after the morning road race and football game. We give thanks for the fellowship, but we also look forward to the sumptuous meal, only to be outdone by late-night snacks of leftover turkey and cranberry. The turkey and sides are the main attraction of the event, taking hours of painstaking work, not without days, if not weeks of planning, assigning various side dishes to those joining in the event.

In addition to the food, an essential element to the planning of the dinner is the proper pairing of “the right wine.” The trick is to find a wine that goes with the vast array of flavors that make up the event. Toward that end, several different wines garner consideration. For appetizers, the selection of a sparkling wine is important. It should be dry, such as a brut from France or California. A cava from Spain is an excellent choice, but a prosecco is just a little too light and sweet to go with the oysters, shrimp or cheeses so typical of the beginnings of this banquet.

White wines for the main course are typically the “go-to” for many hosts. They are versatile, and with the rich butter and sauces that accompany the bird, a dry wine with “green notes” such as a sauvignon blanc or riesling makes for a good choice. While fuller-bodied wines like cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay are crowd-pleasers, their bold and typically oaky notes are better suited to the roasted meats of December’s holidays.

So, about the reds. I recommend a pinot noir. There are so many to choose from. Whether from California or Oregon, or the Burgundian wines of France, you cannot miss with a well-balanced pinot noir to sip with the main course. Pinot noirs are food-friendly and often show classic fall flavors, such as cranberry, red apple skin, dried leaves and resonating allspice. What better match can one find?

Our first wine is a 2018 La Crema Pinot Noir Fog Veil Russian River Valley – Sonoma County,available at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets, originally priced at $64.99, reduced to $29.99. The grapes for this wine come from neighboring vineyards to their Saralee’s Estate. The primary clones are Pommard and Flowers, first planted in 1996, and the wine is aged for 14 months in 100 percent French oak. The color is a ruby red. To the nose there are notes of black cherry, raspberry and baking spices. To the tongue, there is black plum and pomegranate, balanced by fine tannins, with very slight acidity. As the name implies, a late afternoon fog visits the valley daily, ensuring slow and steady ripening, leading to the grape’s slight acidity. Historically Russian River Valley pinot noirs had bright red fruit and delicate earthy, mineral notes. But changes in viticultural and winemaking practices have led to riper fruit and bolder wines, exhibiting black cherry and blackberry notes over the more traditional pinot noir notes of strawberry, raspberry and sour cherry. This is a bolder pinot noir worth trying and comparing to an Oregon or Burgundian-sourced pinot noir.

Our second wine is a 2020 Domaine Olivier-Nicolas de Bourgueil Cuvée Domaine, available at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets, originally priced at $22.99, reduced to $12.99. This wine is 100 percent cabernet franc from the Loire Valley, France. To the nose, there are floral aromas, along with pink peppercorns, all linked to the senses of fall. There are notes of raspberries along with some minerality. This is a great wine that pairs well with the flavors of fall. The earthy-woodsy notes may not please all palates, but it is worth trying, as the price-point is most appealing. If it doesn’t suit your taste alongside the bird, try it with a piece of smoked Gouda. This could lead to a great pairing to be sampled again and again!

Enjoy the holiday. Share it with friends and family. Try some alternatives to “the usual go-to” white wine with turkey. Explore new wines and show your friends just how pioneering one’s taste buds can be!

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