Facebook and Twitter have been blowing-up with posts about Pinot Noir being the perfect wine for the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday. As the resident cork-dork, I would like to expound upon this a bit. Generally, this is a solid pairing, however, there are many pitfalls to avoid, and many alternatives that are equally wonderful, and in some situations, perhaps better.
First things first, why are people pairing Pinot with the upcoming festivities? Well, Pinot is inherently light-bodied, and is said to pair well with turkey. I find this to be a bit of a stretch for two reasons. The age-old standard when it comes to wine pairing is white wines with white meats and foods, and red wines with red meats and foods. If we really want to geek out on this subject, we might even distinguish between the dark leg meat and white breast meat, and perhaps do a nice Gewurtzraminer with the breast, and a light red, perhaps Pinot Noir or Beaujolais with the dark meat.
Furthermore, it has been said that Pinor Noir and cranberry sauce is a "perfect pairing", but that brings me back to a point I've made in earlier blogs: your favorite foods will always go best with your favorite wines, and that's the only way to acheive a "perfect pairing". If you don't like cranberries, I don't care how good the sauce is supposed to pair with Pinot. On the flipside, if you love, love, love cranberry sauce, and feel similarly about Cabernet Sauvignon, but don't really care for Pinot Noir (perhaps you find it to be feeble, or too dry), then you will invariably enjoy the cranberry sauce with Cab much more than you would with Pinot.
That being said, Pinot Noir is a fairly universal wine, and is an easy one to pair with the holiday spread consisting of so many flavors, and unique palates. It is typically only a touch sweet, and also a touch spicy and dry, which will enable your saliva glands to make your mouth water and help add flavors in the mix that may be deficiant in your aunt's roast turkey and bread-crumb stuffing. If Pinot Noir seems to be the way to go this year, I would encourage you to ask yourself a few questions. Firstly, what is your price range? If you suspect most of your guests of having unrefined palates, or simply are on a budget, there are some very good Pinot Noirs available in the ten dollar range that aim to please.
Mark West provides a superior product from California that retails well below ten dollars that is medium-bodied, with a nice color, light but pleasant bouquet and nice fruit flavors. If you are willing to spend closer to twenty dollars, Adelsheim is a reliable producer of Oregon Pinot Noir that is worth the money, and is a lighter, more floral and spiced style. I recommend Oregon Pinot if you will be celebrating with friends or family with more refined palates, or if you really want to impress the table and introduce people in your circle to a possibly new wine experience.
Many cheaper Pinot Noir from any area is cheap for a reason, however, as Pinot is difficult to grow, and usually only performs well in regions that are pricier to grow in, so be wary of grabbing an eight dollar bottle that you are unfamiliar with. I highly encourage you to look up a particular wine on several reputable wine sites, or feel free to comment/e-mail me, and if I'm familiar with it, I will give you an honest review.
The Pinot I've been discussing so far is all domestic, from America's west coast. Very briefly, I want to go over Pinot from the rest of the world. I am almost always disappointed with Pinot Noir from New Zealand, and at it's best, I find it to eminate our fruitier Oregon Pinots, and cost more. Kim Crawford, a man (yes) in New Zealand who makes (almost) everyone's favorite Sauvignon Blanc actually makes one of my least favorite Pinots of all time. I caution all my readers of this wine.
The only other region that produces great Pinot (that I've come across so far, anyhow) is the home of it, an area of France known as the mecca of Pinot Noir: Burgundy. If you have a whole lot to be thankful for this season, or just have sufficiently deep pockets, you can not go wrong with a Burgundian Pinot Noir for Thanksgiving. Complex, aromatic, perfumed, and delicious, any time is a great time for Burgundy. Louis Jadot is the most commonly seen product, and unfortunately it is not a top recommendation of mine. I find it to be a dumbed-down version of Burgundy, albeit still a pleasant enough glass of wine. If you are in Chicago, Wine Discount Center on Clyborne has some great Burgundies at fair prices, and also they do monthly wine tastings that are free and very informative. This is my go-to wine-shoppe, although there are many others in the city I proudly endorse.
For the budget-concious, however, we don't have to avoid France completely this Thanksgiving. Beaujolais is a classic alternative to Burgundy at a fraction of the price. It may not be a coincidence that Frances Beaujolais Noveau festival and celebration occurs the third thursday of November. This is a regional table wine that is released in massive quantities and meant to be drank immediately (rather than most French wines that are made to be aged). Light in color and body, berry flavors exist in harmony with terroir and it happens to pair exceptionally with most traditional thanksgiving cuisine. It is also nice on it's own, if it is opened before the meal or lasts after the leftovers are all wrapped up. Sometimes an easy drinking wine can make it easier to enjoy certain family on these get togethers as well. Georges DeBouf Fleurie is a nice, cheap, highly available Beaujolais, although there are some gems if you dig deeper.
Austria also produces some great Pinots, especially perfect for Thanksgiving, but they can be more difficult to find, so if you do happen to see one on the shleves in your price range, it could be worth trying.
So far we have only talked about red wines, but white wines have every bit as much a place at the table on this holiday. My personal favorite is Gewurtzraminer. It has an interestingly viscous body, perfect spice (allspice, clove) and green apple flavors that just scream for turkey and 'taters. Alsace, in northernmost France, makes the best Gewurtztraminers I've ever experienced, and the price is worth the few extra dollars you will probably spend.
Pinot Grigio, either from California, Oregon, or Italy, can be a nice white pairing, simply because it does not have any maloactic fermentation or oak, and is light and crisp. I recommend against Chardonnay for this holiday, although, to reiterate my mantra, if you love Chardonnay, and love Thanksgiving food, the two will definately pair together brilliantly.
I would love to keep going about this subject matter, but I fear this blog is way too long. My word count says I'm nearly at twelve-hundred. Sorry. I will probably be writing a second installment before the big day. For now, however, I would like to leave you all with the following: this Thanksgiving, please be thankful for your future, your soul, your part and role in humanity and we evolve as a species and collective conciousness, any friends and family you do have that are actually there for you when you need it, and for any physical things in your life that bring you joy, pride, or wonder. But don't forget that they are only things. We all create our own reality, and in that spirit I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday this year!
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