Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thanksgiving is Coming

At some point two weeks from tomorrow, you will stare down a long table strewn with platters of food, napkins colored like the fallen leaves of New England, and glasses rimmed with lipstick stains. Stories are told and laughter peels off like the bells of an Italian hill town's church. The game will hum in the background with Joe Buck's near ceaseless stupidity and Troy Aikman's affirmations of that stupidity. You may push back from the table and take the scene all in. One big happy family, "Man we should do this more often," you'll say.

You are drunk. Day-drunk to be precise. The kind of drunk that feels like the first time you drank beer in a shelter in front of the levee on Lake Pontchartrain when you kissed a girl in a Dominican skirt. Your face is flushed, voices sound like the teacher from Charlie Brown, and you could use a nap. Do not make any promises to anyone from this moment on. It is best to tell the tales you know, offer to do the dishes, and then take a nap. 

You aren't used to having three cocktails, a bottle of champagne, and three quarts of red wine before 3 p.m. on a Thursday. Do not be surprised that your body is trying to tell you to relax. Now, to get this point requires a careful calibration of skill and planning.

You can't get ugly early here. So my suggestion is after your second cocktail, stop drinking the hard stuff until after you have eaten. You should ease into wine like an old man into a hot bath. Now here is where you ask, "What is the perfect wine for Thanksgiving?"

There is no such thing. On your table this year you will likely have turkey, dressing, oyster dressing, corn, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, that creepy Jello mold thing, green beans, bread, soups, sickeningly sweet ham, canned soup someone tries to pass off as homemade, Tofurky (the weird aunt) and one of those centerpieces that no one can figure out where it lives the rest of the year. That is roughly every member of the food group. (No, I did not forget pork. Bacon is in the green beans.) You have a enough textures to decorate Versace's bed, and each of the flavors on your taste buds will be called into active service. There is no wine that will go perfectly with everything, except maybe Champagne.

The good news is there are no wines that don't work. On the white side, I like Rieslings. Without getting dorky, Riesling comes in a variety of styles from dry to sweet. You may say, "Sweet wines. That is gross." Tell yourself that next time you pound four slabs of ribs with sweet tea (a true abomination) or chase a slice of pizza with a Coke. Sweetness is very welcome, but more importantly the acidity in a Riesling makes it an excellent match for foods of all sorts. Also, this juice is generally low in alcohol and has never been introduced to oak on a formal basis, which  makes it a perfect wine for a marathon drinking session.

On the red side of the road, choose a simple Beaujolais-Villages. Now, notice I did not say Beaujolais-Noveau, which comes in brightly painted bottles filled with what is presumably wine. The benefit to these wines is that they are simple and bouncy. Now, that last term may sound "elitist" but all it really means is that they get along really with a variety of foods. Beaujolais-Villages does especially well with spicy foods, which as you know is how we tend to like our foods down here. The Gamay grape is also very low in tannins which means you can drink a lot of this stuff without slipping into a headache.

Both Riesling and Beaujolais-Villages are affordable and easy to find. Affordable is big, because you are going to need a lot of wine. Buying a case gets you a 10% discount at any reputable wine merchant, so buy in bulk. So head on in to your friendly wine merchant and ask a few questions, they may even pull a few corks. Do it this weekend.  

Now whatever wines you choose to serve with the meal, let me suggest one last thing. You may have wines sitting at home that are being reserved for a special occasion. Thanksgiving is a special occasion. Encourage everyone coming to your house to bring something nice. After dinner when the pots are scrubbed and the dishwasher filled, open the good stuff, light a fire, put on some Sinatra or Louis Armstrong, sit around and enjoy the moment. This is what wine pairs with best.


Jeff Abbott said...

Agree! For Riesling I like Monchof, it's a great Thanksgiving choice and has always been a crowd pleaser at our gatherings. (also Riesling is a great wine to use in roasting the turkey). We also sometimes drink Trimbach Gewurztraminer at Thanksgiving. Also like Beaujolais and have found that pinot noir is a good choice as well.

KF said...

Rene - you hit the mark this time - almost any German wine is perfect for Thanksgiving; Beaujolais-Village maybe too fruity, but a crowd pleaser. My favorite for Turkey Day is start with Knobb Creek; ease into lunch with Sav. Blanc or Riesling, continue with a nice Burgundy and finish with late harvest Gerwurztraminer.