This Thanksgiving, Vive la France!

A blue, white and red wine holiday
Nov 24, 2015

It's late November: Time for a slate of "what to drink for Thanksgiving" columns. Some may sigh at all these advice columns on a shared theme. Sure, they create a Venn diagram of holiday-meal pairing suggestions with a big overlap in the middle, but it's also fun to poke around the edges and compare and contrast.

There are of course some popular theories. Most common is the low-alcohol, easy-drinking approach: Serve Beaujolais and/or Riesling. The idea is to make the crawl to the couch from your tryptophan-laden meal easier. I get it, but why bother? It's not like you're going to run a 10K after the meal. We're all still just heading for the couch anyway.

There are variations on that theme too, often trying to painstakingly match the wine to the food on the table. Alas, I'm not intrigued this year by the intellectual pursuit of trying to nail the perfect wine with cranberry sauce. The meal is a hodgepodge of flavors and textures that deservedly takes center stage. I don't see the need to overthink how to tackle it vinously.

So where am I this year on the turkey-wine debate? I'm taking a broader approach. The theme is simple: This year I'm drinking French. All French. From Champagne in the kitchen during the lengthy all-hands-on-deck cooking process to white Burgundy and red Rhône with the meal to Sauternes once I've crawled to the couch.

Why? This was my plan even before the terrorist attacks in Paris killed 130 people, injured hundreds more, placed France under a state of emergency for three months and sparked debate over border controls within Europe. We don't know yet know how much tourism to Paris and the rest of France will be affected, or what the overall economic impact will be, but it feels all the more important now to support our oldest ally in any way we can.

Prior to these recent events, my reasoning was also financial. To paraphrase Jean-Jacques Rousseau's social contract, French wine was born free, but everywhere it is in chains. In this case bureaucratic chains. I've seen firsthand the onerous paperwork a vigneron has to fill out just to hire some harvesters. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

In France, advertising wine consumption, even as part of a healthy and active lifestyle, is illegal. On TV, in papers, anywhere. The law is so draconian, wine industry people are averse to even giving interviews about their estates on French television for fear of it being construed as a promotional pitch to consume their product. This squeeze has been going on for over a decade, even including government ads that claimed wine consumption caused cancer. Haven't French politicians heard of the "French Paradox"?

There was even a "behavior tax" proposed by a French government agency. Most recently, it seems wine in France has become such a second-class citizen that some folks are actually proposing an extension of the TGV right across the Cérons river, through the heart of Sauternes.

Sure, a little regulation is needed for an industry that produces alcohol, I get that. But when I hear frustrated, even despondent vignerons wondering why their own country is anti-wine, it's enough to make me take up a corkscrew. From my perspective, wine is arguably France's greatest cultural gift to the world. OK, I'm biased. And I'll admit, the cheese is pretty damn good too.

I'm thankful for a lot of things: among them, family, friends and good health. I'm also thankful for French wine and the people who make it. It's been part of my life for a long time. And so when the Thanksgiving holiday comes this year, I'll be thanking them all, by serving and drinking French wine with my family and friends. I'll save the 10K run for Friday.

Holidays / Celebrations Thanksgiving France Opinion

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