When it comes to shunning commercial excess, the last holiday holdout might be Thanksgiving. Although gastrointestinal overload might have its drawbacks, it sure beats the nausea caused by walking into the national chains and franchises. Coffee cups with ornaments? On Election Day?? Air sickness bag, please!
To combine joy and solemnity, and have no corresponding retail juggernaut, no gaudy decorations to punctuate it? Why, that’s an effrontery to commercialism! Well, how delicious.
Battles over which wine or wines work best with Thanksgiving dinner have a short shelf life, like the singing Christmas tree at a locally placed national drug store chain. Much the way yuletide fatigue sets in by December 2, proclamations of “Ahem, THIS is the best Thanksgiving wine” might even induce a tableside faux pas worse than something from a crazy cousin, i.e., “Do we HAVE to drink wine?”
Having the good fortune to attend large and boisterous Thanksgiving celebrations over the years, it’s not the time to add any points of contention. The inbox of the holiday complaint forum is full: Gravy disputes, mashed potatoes littered with raw garlic cloves (!) and underdone dark meat take up more than enough space.
With all the potential drama, along with an avalanche of side dishes, wine needs to be the quiet and unassuming escort for all the food. Even if a late arrival (usually the aforementioned crazy cousin) announces, “I’ve got the Beaujolais Nouveau,” ensure that the house is already armed with enough good value wine to save the infantile Gamay for postal moments over the weekend.
Since no one has become truly stressed out over the hyper-holiday barrage to come, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to introduce new and interesting wines to a generally receptive audience.
But that doesn’t mean one should offer South African Pinotage or Bonarda from Argentina. No matter how much bacon is in the Brussels Sprout side dish, muscular tannins should be avoided. Based on Thanksgivings past, and some recent tastings, Chicago Budget Wine Examiner humbly recommends the following:
Nino Franco Prosecco “Rustico” NV: Distract everyone from the giblet content in the bubbling gravy by popping this beauty at the outset. It’s a great aperitif, but if there’s still some in the glass when the meal starts, no harm done. This Prosecco opens with a lovely banana aroma, with flavors of pear on the palate. Hard to come by this level of quality for less. $12.
Hinman Pinot Noir 2008: This column usually alerts readers to the value of obscure varietals. Nevertheless, there’s always room for a good Pinot Noir at Thanksgiving. And for the money, this is outstanding. It’s perfect for those who load up their plates with roast turkey and take teaspoon-size helpings of side dishes. The Hinman Pinot has a smooth flavor of cherry and raspberry, with smooth tannins and a nice finish. Serve slightly chilled (about 15-20 minutes in the fridge). $14.
Sokol Blosser Evolution NV: This blend of nine white grapes has been a Thanksgiving hit for the last several years. For the white wine drinkers around the table, Evolution has the versatility that a Thanksgiving feast needs (the Riesling seems to be most helpful with side dishes that pack a wallop), and it’s a conversation starter. The cork reads: “Chill. Pour. Sip. Chill.” This should be required reading for some extended family members. $13.
Gautier Fitou 2007: Here’s a red for the game birds, the duck and the smoked turkeys. It’s a Languedoc blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan in an old-fashioned, rustic style that’s not overly tannic. The Syrah stands out for its earthiness, as opposed to the big, high-alcohol Aussie style. $10.
(And for those who are looking to escape all leftovers and cleanup duty on Black Friday — and hate shopping at the malls — click here to see some post-Thanksgiving suggestions).