It may have taken all year for us to finally arrive at a silver lining of gratitude for a unique year that continues to serve up one piece of humble pie after another. Finally some good news arrived that we can all be thankful for—the arrival of a potential vaccine, as well as… a few other things…
So many in the wine industry push Beaujolais as the perfect wine for Thanksgiving, and they’re right to do so! But there are so many other wines in the world that fit the bill and also deserve a shot at the crown on this annual day of gratitude. While we’ll focus on some new talent from different places, there is indeed a Beaujolais in the mix that will confidently check the boxes of serious and delicious, and we’ve thrown in a white perfectly suited for the occasion as well. There’s only one white here because most people tend to buy more red wines for this day, despite the fact that white wine has a natural affinity for this kind of food, too. But let’s face it, I’m not trying to change your ways! I’m here to sell you the wine you want and deserve!
Back to the Beaujolais thing… One of the reasons Beaujolais is touted as the perfect pairing for Thanksgiving is due to its softer tannins that don’t crush the food; big tannin wines are definitely for meats other than Turkey! Beaujolais’ fruit forward qualities match up with some of the sweeter dishes such as yams and cranberries, ones that seem to appear for this specific meal and rarely any other time of the year. This wine’s minerally texture and freshness do wonders for making each bite taste as fresh as the first—one of the original tasks for which a wine is to be relied upon for meals like this. Bojo simply goes with the flow. But so do so many other superstar performers that seem to get benched on this occasion for no other reason than they don’t say Beaujolais on the label! Today, it’s time to consider bending tradition a little, and try something different that will be equally as rewarding, if not more so.
What is listed here for the big day are six wines that concede to the food and rise to the jovial nature of the occasion. We start with a single white from Austria and move on to reds from France, Italy and Spain, which are listed in order by weight and power, starting with the most delicate and leading to the fuller-flavored wines.
If there was ever a single white wine from Europe that fits Thanksgiving, it has to be Austria’s Grüner Veltilner. It’s a grape variety built of savory characters that go right along with the food, which makes sense, considering the fact that there are a lot of similarities between Thanksgiving and Austrian countryside fare. Also, it’s hard to dispute that the Mittelbach Federspiel Grüner Veltliner is likely the top-value wine in this region among its list of stellar winegrowers. What’s more is that it comes from some of the region’s most revered terroirs (for the geeks: Loibenberg, Kellerberg and Steinriegl). So why is the price so much less than the going rate? The grapes come from mostly young vines from a set of recently purchased vineyards for Weingut Tegernseerhof, the producer of this wine. Martin Mittelbach, the winegrower, wanted to observe how these new wines performed for some years in the cellar to determine what sections would go into his top wines, and what should go into his entry-level wines. For now, it’s all in one cuvée and it’s classic Mittelbach style: crystalline, energized, fresh, pure, and gulpable.
Cume do Avia’s 2019 Colleita 7 Tinto is a total knockout and is the most common wine on my table since I took my cases home from Cume’s winery just an hour and half north of us in Portugal. This is a red wine that lands right in-between a red and a white in structure, finesse and energy. With the higher yield in 2019 (which was still only about 70% of what they hoped for in any case) the team decided to make an even more meticulous selection of grapes than usual for this blend, resulting in a more serious Colleita red, which it is, but it’s still so delicious and easy to quaff. It’s principally a blend of 49% Caíño Longo, 37% Brancellao, 10% Sousón, and Merenzao (known in France as Trousseau), all grapes that lead with perfume and vigorous freshness. Aged in an extremely old, large foudre, and at a mere 10.5% alcohol, this wine can be sorted out as fast as one wants, without morning repercussions… This makes it a worthy consideration for numerous bottles, all of which will certainly deliver.
There isn’t a better Beaujolais we have on offer for the price than Anthony Thevenet’s Morgon. It comes from organically farmed vineyards on gravely granite topsoil that range in age between sixty and eighty years, within the minuscule commune of Douby, combined with some from the famous lieu-dit, Courcelette, with Anthony’s parcel completely made of soft, beach-like granite sands. The result is a substantial Beaujolais predicated on elegance and grace, even from the 2017 vintage, where the alcohol level of many of the wines from top producers breached 14% and even went beyond 15%. At a mere 12.5% alcohol, it may even be too easy to drink. And for that reason you might need a few of these for dinner…
No short list of wines from us should ever miss a wine crafted by the talented Arnaud Lambert. His Saumur-Champigny “Les Terres Rouges” is a charming and utterly delicious Cabernet Franc from Saumur-Champigny’s southernmost hill, Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg. The fragrant dark-earth notes of Cabernet Franc give the impression of black soils unearthed from a thick overlay of wet forest moss, grass and bramble. However, despite the impression and name (which translates to “the red earth”), the soil is light brown clay with alluvial sands atop white tuffeau limestone. The cool harvest conditions, the soil and bedrock, and a life spent in stainless steel tanks renders this wine medium bodied with a clean and refreshing finish. Indeed, the sand plays its part as well by elevating the fruits and flowers in the bouquet to the ethereal realm. This privileged location makes for consistent ripening, lending the final wine flush with an array of black and red fruits. Truly another total win for Thanksgiving.
Undoubtedly one of the greatest jack of all trades for food pairing beyond fish has to go to Chianti Classico, especially those done in a way that they don’t obliterate the food, meaning: less new oak and extraction please, and thank you! The Riecine Chianti Classico is well above the cut for the price, and will, like the others on the list, be a top performer with food. This wine is for those who do want a little more oomph to their reds, but not a sledgehammer. Fruit forward with a seamless and refined texture, Riecine’s first tier Chianti Classico is serious Sangiovese, but with glou glou immediacy upon pulling the cork. Not solely a one-trick pleasure-pony, this wine has extra gears and demonstrates its versatility and depth with more aeration (if it can be resisted long enough). More classically savory characteristics of Chianti Classico begin to unfold after a little time open in its youth and surely with more maturation in the cellar, and are supported with the acidic snap from its high altitude and endowed with a sappy red fruit core. It’s grown on a limestone and clay vineyard and is aged in large old oak barrels to further highlight its purity and high-toned frequency. Get this one open early so it shines at the right moment.
Fuentes del Silencio’s Las Jaras is simply a bombshell for the price. Hey, who can boast a wine as serious for the price as this that comes from 80 to 150-year-old vines?! The blend is Mencía, Prieto Picudo and Alicante Bouschet, and this makes for a wine of unusual depth, concentration and surprising freshness. At an altitude of more than 2,600 feet (extremely high by wine region standards), the growing season is long and results in a wine of wonderful tension, texture and freshness. Once the cork is pulled, the wine immediately begins its vertical climb and builds from one strength to the next, and even day after day. It seems that this wine can easily last for a week after being opened and still deliver freshness and bright fruit. This is the bigger mouthful in the range, but it still stays the course with gentle tannins that don’t squash the meal.