Thanksgiving wine recommendations:
If Thanksgiving dinner were nothing but roast turkey with a little gravy spooned over herb stuffing, choosing a wine would be a snap. You could drink anything from Champagne to a subtle, well-aged, classic red.
Unfortunately for wine lovers, the typical Thanksgiving table groans with marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, sugary, tart cranberry sauce and other family heirloom recipes that usually tilt toward sweet flavors. Nothing makes a subtle, elegant wine, especially a nicely aged red, go kablooey faster than something sweet on the plate. The sugar turns any dry wine tart, amps up the tannins and makes oak flavor seem bitter.
Knowing this, there are two approaches that can maximize the pleasures of wine with the holiday meal. If you want to enjoy the traditional meal, find simple, amenable wines for it. If you want to show off better bottles, rearrange the flavor component to let fine wine into the party.
To make good matches with all the traditional Thanksgiving fare, aim for simple, youthful, fruit-centered wines that won't be flummoxed by a little raucous food. A good strategy is to look for wines that are a little sweet, such as sparkling wines, off-dry Rieslings and other aromatic whites. Relatively neutral dry whites such as Albariño, Pinot Gris or Pinot Blanc are another option. On the red side, try fruity Côtes-du-Rhônes or low-pricedd (and therefore not very oaky) Zinfandels. Beaujolais or Gamay are mainstays.
This approach has the virtue of favoring modestly priced wines. If you have a crowd, consider opening a range of wines, rather than forcing everyone into just one choice. It's fun to mix and match.
If you want to drink serious wine, rethink the menu. Basically, this means squeezing the sweetness out of the dishes, which helps create a wine-friendly environment for that 1993 Burgundy, 1985 Bordeaux or 1978 California Cabernet you've been saving for the right occasion. The bird, the gravy and normal vegetable side dishes also take to all sorts of higher-end young wines, with bigger structures and oaky flavors, including reds made from Pinot Noir, Syrah or Merlot and whites based on Chardonnay or even Viognier or Marsanne.
If you just can't have Thanksgiving without cranberries and yams, rearrange these components. Banish the sweet stuff to the dessert course. Make cranberry cake or sweet potato pie. Move the pumpkin to a first-course soup enriched with a little prosciutto or smoked ham, which does well with dry aromatic whites such as Alsace, Austrian and Australian Rieslings, or a really dry, elegant Champagne. Now we're on our way to a real wine dinner.
When it comes to the endgame, one rule applies: The dessert wine should be sweeter than the dessert. One great choice for pumpkin pie is an Australian Muscadelle (which used to be called Tokay, until the Europeans objected). This sweet, fresh, fortified style is luscious on its own and makes friends fast with a custardy pumpkin pie, even with a little caramel drizzled on or around it.
|CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE-DR. LOOSEN Riesling Columbia Valley Eroica 2003||91||$20|
|ST.-URBANS-HOF Riesling QbA Mosel-Saar-Ruwer 2003||89||$11|
|LOOSEN BROS. Riesling QbA Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Dr. L 2003||87||$10|
|ADEGA CONDES DE ALBAREI Albariño Rias Baixas 2003||90||$15|
|BODEGAS PAZO DE BARRANTES Albariño Rias Baixas 2002||88||$20|
|ADEGAS MORGADÍO Albariño Rias Baixas 2003||87||$19|
|HUGEL Gewürztraminer Alsace 2002||89||$20|
|ALOIS LAGEDER Gewürztraminer Alto Adige 2003||88||$18|
|NAVARRO Gewürztraminer Anderson Valley Dry 2002||88||$16|
|PIERRE CHAINIER Vouvray 2002||88||$10|
|PINE RIDGE Chenin Blanc-Viognier Clarksburg 2003||88||$15|
|KEN FORRESTER Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch Petit Chenin 2003||87||$9|
|SEGHESIO Zinfandel Sonoma County Sonoma 2002||92||$17|
|CASTLE ROCK Zinfandel Russian River Valley 2002||88||$10|
|BOGLE Zinfandel California Old Vine 2002||87||$11|
|GEORGES DUBOEUF Juliénas Flower Label 2003||88||$12|
|GEORGES DUBOEUF Morgon Grand CuvÉe 2003||88||$12|
|GEORGES DUBOEUF Beaujolais-Villages Flower Label 2003||86||$9|
|PENFOLDS Bin 138 Barossa Valley 2002||89||$22|
|D'ARENBERG The Stump Jump Red McLaren Vale 2002||88||$10|
|LOUIS BERNARD Côtes du Rhône 2003||88||$11|
|M. CHAPOUTIER Côtes du Rhône Belleruche 2003||87||$15|
|SALOMON-UNDHOF Riesling Qualitätswein Trocken Kremstal Kremser Kögl Reserve 2002||92||$39|
|LOUIS SIPP Riesling Alsace 2002||90||$18|
|WOLF BLASS Riesling Adelaide Gold Label 2003||89||$14|
|JACOB'S CREEK Riesling South Australia Reserve 2003||89||$13|
|GLEN CARLOU Chardonnay Paarl 2002||91||$14|
|CHALK HILL Chardonnay Chalk Hill 2001||90||$36|
|LOUIS JADOT Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot Clos de la Chapelle Duc de Magenta 2002||93||$38|
|JOSEPH DROUHIN Meursault 2002||89||$38|
|WILLIAMS SELYEM Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2002||92||$39|
|SPY VALLEY Pinot Noir Marlborough 2002||91||$27|
|PONZI Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2002||94||$30|
|BOUCHARD PÈRE & FILS Premier Cru du Château 2002||88||$25|
|CHALONE Syrah Chalone 2002||91||$25|
|COLUMBIA CREST Syrah Columbia Valley Reserve 2002||91||$30|
|JOSEPH PHELPS Le Mistral Monterey County 2001||91||$25|
|FAIRVIEW Goats do Roam In Villages Red Coastal Region 2003||90||$13|
|CASA LAPOSTOLLE Merlot Colchagua Valley Cuvée Alexandre 2001||90||$19|
|CHATEAU ST. JEAN Merlot Sonoma County 2001||90||$25|
|COLUMBIA CREST Merlot Columbia Valley Grand Estates 2001||90||$11|
|CHÂTEAU FOMBRAUGE St.-Emilion 2001||89||$20|
|R.L. BULLER & SON Tokay Victoria Fine NV||91||$13|
|CAMPBELLS Muscat Rutherglen NV||91||$17|
|R.L. BULLER & SON Muscat Victoria Fine NV||90||$13|
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