At least once a week, I get asked this question: ‘What is your favorite wine?’ And my answer is always the same: “It depends.”
Now, you might think that’s a way of avoiding the question, but to me your query is incomplete unless you tell me what type of food you intend to pair with the wine. I simply don’t believe wine can be properly enjoyed just on the merits of its own flavors, aromas and textures – without some type of food context.
But, if the question is stated in this manner: What is your favorite wine with, say, beef tenderloin? I might ask the how beef will be prepared? Will it be marinated, dry-rubbed (and with what spices) or just seasoned with salt and pepper? Will it be grilled, pan sautéed or oven roasted? Based upon your answers to those questions, I would then recommend several wines that would marry nicely with that particular treatment of beef tenderloin.
So with Thanksgiving only a week away, you can probably guess what question I’ve been asked lately. Well, there’s a problem in answering this one. But it’s a good problem for a wine lover to have. Why? Well, Thanksgiving dinner is about the easiest meal you’ll ever have for which to select the right wine. As a matter of fact, it’s almost impossible not to find at least one good wine and food pairing during this holiday meal.
For years, I‘ve touted the culinary versatility of turkey to be equally successfully paired with both white and red, as well as with light or full-bodied wines. The reason is the “National Bird” is blessed with meat that has different flavors, colors and textures. Add to this the way it is prepared – from traditional oven-baking, to deep frying, to grilling, to smoking (with hardwood such as apple) -and you have even more wine choices from which to select.
When you prepare stuffing to accompany the meal, you add a whole other flavor dimension which, depending upon the nature of the dressing, opens up even more wine possibilities. For example, one Thanksgiving I stuffed a charcoal grilled turkey with cornbread, Monterey jack cheese, ancho chili peppers and chorizo sausage. What wine, you might ask, did I serve with this non-traditional turkey and stuffing?
Well, I started with Beaujolais Nouveau as an aperitif, proceeded to open a bottle of pinot gris from Alsace for those who preferred white wine, and uncorked a full-bodied Alexander Valley zinfandel for those who preferred a big red. And guess what? It worked. For dessert, I selected a bottle of Mendocino County late harvest gewürztraminer to accompany the pumpkin pie. Then I plopped down on the couch to watch some other NFL team beat up the Detroit Lions.
For the traditional oven-roasted turkey with a chestnut, sage bread dressing, I suggest a light to medium bodied white wine such Soave or Arneis from Italy, a white Bordeaux or any steely, non-oaked chardonnay. For reds, with this meal, you might pair a pinot noir from the Sonoma Coast, a Chianti Classico from Tuscany, or a Chateauneuf du Pape from France. And older reds, such as a claret from Bordeaux, Brunello Di Montalcino from Tuscany or a California cabernet sauvignon, go nicely as well.
Whatever you choose, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!