Holiday eating with the family often features all the subtly and nuance of a stockyard: Curious smells, occasional plumes of steam, and lines of hungry moving bodies all working toward some sort of destination. Wine in a box is often the go-to pairing under such dramatic circumstances. For those of you who are experiencing something more leisurely, what you wash down your turkey with might look more like a pairing opportunity catapulting the importance of the wine to the same heights as the turkey itself.
White wines, white meat; dark wines, dark meat – This pairing rule is ubiquitous; we’ve all heard it even though we might not quite understand it. To carve out a little more meaning, this hard-and-fast rule is meant to spare you from drinking a red wine that starts to taste like metal or a white wine tasting more like water than the splendid goodness promised on the label. These are some of the worst-case scenarios. Years later, I’m still smarting from a pairing blunder involving something worth more than me paired with a homemade meal from a Mexican market while on vacation in Puerto Vallarta. It was an innocent maneuver as I was wanting to provide something special for the occasion. Why oh why didn’t I save it for dessert I still can’t believe.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, wine experts will give mention to the ultimate Thanksgiving wine, Beaujolais Noveau. It pairs with all the usual suspects on the holiday table and for extra effect, it’s released just in time on the third Thursday of every November. It’s red, light, delicate, and usually cheap. For those looking for the complexity, they’ll find it. For everyone else, it will not distract but compliment.
Recently, I discussed Thanksgiving Day wines with Rebecca Delott, a wine specialist from the distributor Wine Cru at a tasting held at Marion Street Cheese Market in Oak Park. Abiding by the turkey-friendly rules helping along happy pairings, Rebecca brought with her five wines that ran the gamut of taste preferences while being value-priced.
Meinklang Blauburgunder Prosa (‘09) is a sparkling Pinot Noir Rose from Austria. I was shocked with not how dry it was but in how it finished with this lovely strawberry. It would be an amazing gateway wine for the sweet drinkers wanting to venture out into something more dry.
Vinho Branco “Grilos” (‘09) is a Portugese white blend with an incredibly sweet nose giving way to breathtaking acidity staving off what must be a monster-load of syrupy sweetness. There’s a lot with this wine begging to transform like a model taking off garments with the first bite of Turkey. And yes, I do need to try and get your attention. This is a great wine.
Martin Ray Pinot Noir (‘08) is a Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara County, California. What set this apart for me was the smooth, silky texture married with the perfect amount of heft. While still considered a “light” red, it entices with all the elegant trappings of a more muscular varietal.
Legado Munoz Garnacha (‘08) is a Spanish red wine made from the Garnacha or Grenache grape. I could not believe the perfume of violets and other exotic florals in the bouquet. Having it near at the dinner table would be worth it for just the occasional smell. Thankfully, the floral gives way to black and bright cherry flavors undergirded by prominent yet restrained tannins. It’s both dry and delicate.
Belasco de Baquedano “Llama” Malbec (‘08) is a Malbec from the Mendoza region of Argentina and was the biggest, reddist (can I make up a word for this?) wine of the tasting. I was scared to take my first sip. Several minutes later, I got up off the floor (proverbial) and stopped moaning. This is a wonderful wine with a depth rare to Malbec. But what does that mean? The dryness was present but so very well curtailed by a cauldron of dried fruits (mainly raisin), chocolate, earth and – because of the balance and my inadequate palette – other mysterious complexities that seemed to go on and on into a deep abyss of yumminess.
None of these wines should be over $15.