Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wines for Thanksgiving

By  Liza B. Zimmerman

Those holidays don't always have to be about turkey. It has never been my favorite main dish and I am excitedly talking to my new partners in crime about potentially serving Osso Bucco or lamb for the upcoming holiday.

If you have a tradition-bound crowd, lighter reds like Cabernet Franc and even Pinot Noir will work well with that turkey. Remember to brine it if you want the meat to be tender and flavorful.

You will want something will a little acidity to cut through the animal fat of the bird. If your stuffing has a lot of intense meat, on the sausage side particularly, you might even want to step it up to a more alcoholic, fruit-forward wine: such as a California Zinfandel.

Bubbles are always fun and festive for the holidays. The luscious fruit profile of Lambrusco paired with its acid structure makes it a perfect pairing for Turkey. It is the one of the Italians' go-to wines for holiday feasts, such as Christmas. Lini is a wonderful producer. For your guests with a sweeter palate, a sparkling Shiraz can also be fun.

A fairly round and somewhat herbaceous white might also do the trick, for those red-adverse at your table. The right white Rhône blends are pretty amazing with even meat-stuffed fowl. An aromatic wine, like a Kerner from Alto Adige would also fit the bill.

Go for Lamb
When I have been able to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family in New York, we have long stopped making Turkey. We  roast lamb ribs,  while my mom and I fight over how long it should cook, and pair it with dusty wines like Côtes du Rhône and earthy wines such as Cahors. If you want to be more patriotic for Thanksgiving, go with a California or Washington State Rhône blend.

One year with even did a pig roast cooked in Coca Cola and onion soup mix: trust me it was fantastic! A dish like that works beautifully with an off-dry Riesling, think German  or Washington State more than Alsace.

A domestic Cabernet Franc (there are lots of dusty notes to them) would even work. If you are in an Italian state of mind Barbaresco pairs beautifully with all kinds of rich meats and gives them a peppery zing. Much of the pairing will depend on how you cook the lamb. I tend to cover it in rosemary and some kind of red wine reduction, which can work well with some serious and tannic--and even sometimes herbal--wines.

What I Would Pair with Osso Buco
I have never had Osso Buco--that delicious hunk of bone-in veal shank served in Italy--for Thanksgiving, but it might happen this year. It would be even more unorthodox than lamb. The layers of fat in this dense meat call for rich, structured wines with tannins.

As it is an Italian dish I would probably go local with the pairings: Sangiovese is always fresh and fruit forward. Dense Aglianico from the Italian South would step up the intensity of the match and Piedmonte' s flexible and food-friendly wines: like Dolcetto on the affordable side, and Barolo on the high end, work with everything.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

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