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NY Times Wines for Thanksgiving Dinner

on 09/11/11 at 12:46 pm


THE Thanksgiving wine panel, in which the home team gathers for a preliminary holiday feast, is one of our traditions here at the Dining section. We test specific bottles with representative dishes, and, even more important, we reassess the coherence of our assumptions about which wines to serve with the bird.

Coherence may be an issue this year, because what my colleagues told me contradicted the common-sense recommendations that have become self-evident, at least to me. Frankly, I may still pay no attention to what they said. But that does not mean you shouldn’t hear them.

For the pre-Thanksgiving set-to, Florence Fabricant and I were joined by Julia Moskin, a Dining reporter; Pete Wells, the Dining editor; and Bernie Kirsch, our tasting coordinator. Each of us was assigned to bring two wines, a white and a red, costing no more than $25 apiece.

So what was the conflict? First, let me state my no-sweat method for choosing Thanksgiving wines.

Consign to the scrap heap the notion that this holiday requires exact wine-and-food matching alchemy. No, the meal is too kaleidoscopic, with too many shifting colors, textures, weights and aromas, to strain for the perfect pairing.

Frankly, precision can be the enemy of fun if your gathering is anything like mine, where many people join together in casual exuberance. Nothing decorous here; people want wine and plenty of it. I supply a red and a white, open a lot of bottles and let people pour to their heart’s content.

So, two wines. But what should they be? First, they need to refresh and satisfy over the course of a long and fatiguing meal. That means they need to be light rather than heavy, agile rather than powerful, moderate in alcohol and versatile enough to complement the hodgepodge of dishes on the table. In wine speak, the key words are lively acidity, the quality that gives wine energy.


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