The standard wine pairing advice used to be simple: White meat = white wine. Simple, and boring. Happily, that’s gone out the window. There are plenty of reds with an affinity for poultry, some of them obscure and some pretty ubiquitous. Generally, lighter bodied reds are more complementary to the flavor profiles of classic Thanksgiving fare: Think pinot noir, Gamay, and Grenache for example. You probably don’t want the meal bullied by a big leathery Malbec or a sucker-punching Napa Cabernet. But by the way, if you do? Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t because your palate is your palate. Meanwhile, a quick few suggestions for food-o-rama reds for which you can definitely give thanks.
Alsace, France ($20)
Alsace is a wine region that should be on everyone’s radar. There are tons of really good wine from this area and it’s often available at very friendly prices for the quality. This organic pinot noir comes from granite soils and happy pesticide-free grapes. Nose of redcurrants and other tart red fruits-pomegranate, raspberry. Significant tannin structure but not overwhelming, kind of voluptuous actually. The winemaker’s recommendation on this is to pair it with red meat, which you can do. But personally, I think turkey or duck would enjoy a night out with this guy.
Paso Robles, CA ($20)
Grenache is a widely planted grape that probably originated in Spain. It likes hot, dry conditions (welcome to Paso Robles!) and produces wines with low tannins and a lot of red berry and spice notes-leathery or tarry notes enter the picture with age. Adelaida’s Grenache is a cherry and tobacco affair on the nose, with accents of allspice berries and a hint of cinnamon. The dominant flavor notes are strawberries, orange peel and oolong tea with a little black cherry. It’s a versatile character so it’s a good pick for a spread that’s all over the place.
Sonoma Coast, CA ($15)
Silky. Aromatics lean toward chocolate, cherries, toasted almonds and spices. Supple on the palate with an earthy note something like roasted beets as well as cherry and forest floor elements. Elegant tannins and a certain creaminess that isn’t necessarily typical of the grape. This is absolutely a go-with-anything wine; substantial but not overwhelming.
Beaujolais, France ($8)
If you’d like a reminder that wine is, actually, a seasonal food, Gamay might be your grape. My Gamay Beaujolais loving friend always quips that you age this wine “in the car on the way home.” Youthful and juicy, it’s best drunk a little south of room temperature. Luscious-looking cherry-violet color with nice translucency, calm tannins, red and black fruit notes dominating (raspberry especially); this is your wine if you are casual and feeding a crowd. It also has to be said that this stuff goes amazingly well with Thanksgiving leftovers.
Willamette Valley OR ($90)
If you live in splurgeville, I have to mention this wine. No, it’s not an everyday price for most of us, but it’s a once a year food-mad holiday so if you are looking for something special Say Hello to My Little Friend from Willamette Valley. Most pinots are turkey-friends; this one’s in love with it. Bright kirsch-like cherry notes up front, and a certain incense quality-I get cedar and sandalwood and maybe cardamom. Cherry cola on the mid-palate along with a lot of earth notes and a decent ration of cocoa powder. Burly tannins for a pinot. Epic deliciousness.