Top 5 Thanksgiving wines
Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday. Food and football. The meal is built around turkey, but it's the side dishes, traditional to your family and friends and as varied or exotic as your friends and family, that make the meal.
Sparkling wine goes with anything. A Cava from Spain is a bit softer than Champagne.
Thanksgiving Day dinner offers wine lovers a unique challenge as well. You're faced with picking a wine that goes with turkey but also with tart cranberry, earthy wild rice, stuffing with nuts or sausage or giblets, sweet potatoes, creamed onions, green bean casserole ....
Here are five suggestions from local wine experts to help you solve this annual food/wine pairing puzzle.
Rob at Solo Vino in St Paul votes for riesling. Most of the respondents for this entry thought white wine of some kind was in order. Riesling is a great food wine because, even if dry, it combines a shade of sweetness with acidity, and it's rarely heavy. Riesling allows the food to be center stage yet plays a strong supporting role in most cases. Rob likes the "electric balance of sweet and sour notes" in the Reichstrat von Buhl Kabinett Riesling "Armand" 2010 ($21.99). There are peach and apple flavors and good body in this riesling but, Rob notes, "it's less viscous and ripe than some Pfalz rieslings. There's more elegance." It's a dry riesling, but the fruit will harmonize with the sweet elements in your side dishes. Solo Vino, 517 Selby Ave., St. Paul; 651.602.9515
Red wine with thanksgiving turkey? If its fruity and soft.
McDonald's Liquors is a family-owned shop is south Minneapolis with a growing wine presence. Michael at McDonald's bucked the trend to choose a red wine, the 2007 Les Trois Couronnes Vacqueyras ($15.99). Vacqueyras is a Cote du Rhone village in the south of France. The wine is a blend; 70% grenache, 20% syrah, 10% mourvedre. Michael describes it as, "spicy and ripe, deep and soft, with a hint of licorice." Grenache is a thin-skinned grape, silky and juicy. Syrah adds more body, texture, and spice. Mourvedre is lower in acid, more chunky and earthy, providing a base note to the mix. "This covers your stuffing with, maybe, sausage, your sweet potatoes, even the tartness of cranberry," Michael says. McDonald's Liquors, 5010 34th Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.721.6686
At France 44 in Edina, Rick was shocked and appalled that no one had thought of a demi-sec Vouvray yet. His choice was the Domaine Huet Le Mont Vouvray 2008 ($39.99). "You have to have a wine with richness," he says, to stand up to the competing flavors. Demi-sec means half-dry. White Vouvray is 100% chenin blanc, so this wine has a core of delicate sweetness wrapped within its clean, crisp frame. "This is opulent wine with a sparkle of minerality, apricot and peach, and incredible length on the finish," Rick says. He thinks most of us will have some sweet tones in our side dishes, and the wine has to harmonize with those. He fears red wines, if not decidedly fruity and soft, will come off harshly tart against the typical Thanksgiving feast.
France 44 Wine & Spirits, 4351 France Ave. S., Edina; 612.285.7643
Chenin blanc is another mistrusted grape type, but a great producer creates sublime wine.
Bill and Roger came together at Surdyk's in north Minneapolis to recommend more than one wine. After considering a soft, fruity, domestic pinot noir ("complexity and tannin will just get in the way"), Bill settled on the Leitz "Eins, Zwei, Dry" Rheingau Riesling Troken 2010 ($14.99). Although Troken means dry, this German riesling displays almost tropical fruit in the aroma and lush, peachy richness on the palate. The Rheingau is a place where the grapes can really ripen, so the acidity here is balanced by delightfully full tree and stone fruits. Realizing he couldn't suggest another riesling, Roger opted for a sparkling rose, Poema Brut Cava NV ($10.99) from Spain. "You don't have to impress anybody. The food's the thing," he commented. "Pick a wine that's just good, that everyone can enjoy." Sparkling wine does go with everything, and this Cava is softer, not as austere as real Champagne might be, with a fruity core to play with those pesky side dishes. Surdyk's Liquor, 303 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.379.3232
My choices, one white and one red, would be the Trimbach Gewurztraminer 2009 ($22) and the best Nouveau Beaujolais in our market, Terres Dorees vieilles vignes Nouveau Beaujolais 2011 ($14). Alsatian white wines combine floral and exotic fruit aroma with silky, opulent mouth feel and deceptively light body. You may fear sweet when you see the tall tapered bottles, but they are mostly nice and dry. Gewurztraminer is a particularly exotic and recognizable grape, sometimes clumsily aromatic, but the Trimbach is spot-on, clean yet rich. The Terres Dorees Nouveau is made from old vines and truly is a young wine with character and dimension. This is the rare nouveau that could be enjoyed next year at this time, supple and silky, savory and bright. It is a red wine type, arriving each year just before turkey day, that is perfectly suited to the occasion.