While a few family squabbles might be inevitable, there’s no reason your food and wine should fight with each other at the Thanksgiving dinner table. The first rule for keeping the peace? Forget about the turkey. Unless dressed in a particularly bold way, turkey rarely wrangles with wine. It’s the side dishes and desserts that require suitable companions.
Reyneke Vinehugger White 2017
Western Cape, South Africa, $15
Our nation enjoys chardonnay so much, it has practically become a synonym for white wine, even giving rise to an “ABC” movement — Anything But Chardonnay — in the 1980s. While ingenious in theory, we as a wine-drinking nation did not get much further than sauvignon blanc. Although chardonnay is never a bad choice for a Thanksgiving white, a bounty of other white grapes is waiting to grace the holiday table. Chenin blanc is an invitingly complex grape native to France’s Loire Valley where it shines in every iteration from dry to sweet to sparkling. Today, there is actually more chenin blanc being grown in South Africa, where it is often referred to as steen.
Reyneke Vinehugger White is produced from 100 percent organically grown chenin blanc grapes. Naturally complex, the grapes are made even more multifaceted by indigenous fermentation in a combination of concrete eggs, stainless steel tanks and oak barrels, followed by six months of sur lie aging. Pale-yellow gold in the glass, this wine displays classic chenin blanc aromas of green apple, white blossoms and wet wool. The effect of sur lie aging is discernible from the first sip with hints of spritz cookie dough. The palate-cleansing acid carries through to the finish, with notes of straw, orange pith and the slight tingling sensation one often experiences eating fresh papaya. This bottle could easily take you through both appetizers and entrées.
For $15, this is a rich little wine for a near-pauper price.
Domaine du Clos du Fief Juliénas Tradition 2016
Beaujolais, France, $20
In France, Beaujolais nouveau may not be released until the third week of November in the year in which the grapes are harvested. The timing of the release has created a connection with Thanksgiving, even though this wine has nothing whatsoever to do with our American holiday. A young, light, typically sweet wine, Beaujolais nouveau has not always garnered favor with more seasoned wine drinkers. However, there are 10 appellations in northern Beaujolais, known as the Beaujolais cru, that merit serious attention. Produced from gamay grapes grown in granitic soils, these dry, high-acid, low-tannin, fruity, earthy, spicy wines, often compared to pinot noir, promise to be excellent playmates for all of your Thanksgiving dishes.
Domaine du Clos du Fief Juliénas Tradition is 100 percent gamay. A warm garnet in the glass, this wine emits a barnyard aroma at first, characteristic of some wines from the Burgundy and Beaujolais regions, arising from the wild yeast strain known as brettanomyces. Lying just beneath its earthy exterior are notes of black currants and black pepper. These intense aromas belie the more playful palate of strawberry, raspberry, red currants and herbaceous brambles, carried to the finish on a core of mouthwatering acidity. Bring on the stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, gravy, and, oh yes, the turkey. It will pair perfectly.
At $20, enjoy one this year and lay one down for next year’s celebration. Decant for 1-2 hours prior to pouring to tame the barnyard bouquet.
Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos Aszú 2013
All too often the wine pairing ends with the entrée, a true shame with all of the delectable dessert wines available to accompany your final course. Tokaji is a sweet wine from Hungary produced from a blend of local grapes affected by a gray mold known as botrytis. This mold depletes the grapes’ water content and concentrates the sugar, which is measured in puttonyos. The Tokaji indicates 120 grams of sugar per liter, which now goes by the classification “aszú.”
Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos Aszú is brilliant yellow-gold, evoking the sun in a glass. Practically a dessert unto itself, the aromas elicit a glorious guava-flavored caramel topped with pink sea salt. The nose is further redolent of lychee, melon, citrus and honeyed apricot nectar. The palate mimics these notes with cantaloupe, guava, peach, pear and a just a tease of brine. The overall effect is candied without being cloying. This could very well be your desserts’ new best friend. Pair it with your pies, from pecan to pumpkin, and give your coffee machine the night off.
Although you’ll pay $55 for 500 milliliters of this liquid gold, a little goes a long way.