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Dress Thanksgiving dinner with right wine

A lot about Thanksgiving is predictable. The bird must be brined/deep-fried/tofurkey. Stuffing must be from a box or from scratch, in the bird or not. And then there's the whole to-marshmallow-or-not-to-marshmallow dilemma. • Fortunately, when it comes to what wine to serve with all that tradition, the rules are much more flexible. Sure, pinot noir is a classic match for poultry, but this year think a little further afield? Associated Press

Venture into viognier

Pronounced vee-ohn-YAY, this is a floral white wine that is originally French but was brought to America in the 1970s. So a California viognier might be one way to bring an American wine to this most American of feasts, says master sommelier Gilles de Chambure, director of wine education at the Meadowood resort in the Napa Valley.

"It's full-bodied and rich so it goes with the texture of the meat," he said. "It has a nuttiness as well that goes very well with the stuffing and has enough sweetness that it can bridge all the way to dessert and pumpkin pie."

Aim for Argentina

Argentina is a good choice for reasonably priced wines, always a consideration when you have a crowd. A number of good malbecs are in the $10 range and even cheaper.

Another option is torrontes, the white wine of Argentina.

"It's a really fun idea," says Richard Betts, a New York master sommelier and negociant — someone who buys wine in the bulk market, then blends and bottles it — who also makes wine under his own label, CC Wines. "Thanksgiving is obviously about wanting to put food on the table, and sometimes you need a little bit of richness in your wine to match that."

Floral and fruity but with a bite of acidity, torrontes "brings the exuberance you need to go with things like pumpkin and stuffing and thyme," Betts says.

And as long as you're thinking white, a prosecco, the sparkling wine from Italy, is another light choice that won't put too big a bite on your wallet.

Zoom in on zin

California wines can be pricey, but one grape that consistently offers good value is zinfandel.

"It's a California crowd pleaser, very accessible," says James Darden, wine director at celebrity chef Michael Chiarello's Bottega Napa Valley restaurant. When pairing wines, he likes to focus on the trimmings more than the turkey. Do you have a big, brothy gravy that requires a heartier wine? "I like my gravy to go with mashed potatoes and biscuits, so the heartier the better," says Darden, who makes his own wine with brother Daniel. Zins also have the richness to stand up to tart cranberry sauce, another piece of the Thanksgiving pairing equation.

Another red choice might be a tempranillo from Spain.

Go mad for Madeira

When it comes to dessert, one sweet wine to consider is Madeira, a fortified Portuguese wine made in the Madeira Islands. A favorite of the founding fathers, this was "the first 'cult' wine of America," says de Chambure, and was used to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Over the years, interest in the wine faltered and the emergence of some blends good only for cooking didn't helped Madeira's image. But there is good Madeira, including some created by the Sonoma-based Rare Wine Co., says de Chambure.

Dress Thanksgiving dinner with right wine 11/20/10 [Last modified: Saturday, November 20, 2010 3:30am]
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