By Celia Strong
Last week’s revue about white wines was so much fun. For me, at least, because I got to remember some really special wines and think about drinking them for Thanksgiving. (Actually, fun but hard. It is truly hard to pick just 10 to review.) I know the drinking part is the most fun, but the thinking and savoring and anticipating aren’t bad. For sure, this week’s revue of red wines will be just as fun. Again, they’ll be by grape, alphabetically, then the blends.
1. Gamay: Beaujolais Nouveau from France. (Gamay is the grape for this wine, we just don’t mention it a lot.) The new Beaujolais is the first wine released each year of the new vintage. Or, that was the claim before we all started drinking Southern Hemisphere wines. Anyhow, the Nouveau is released, by French national wine law, on the third Thursday of November. That means that every year it comes the week before Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday of November. Special allowances let it fly all over the world to sell on that day also. This is really a celebratory wine, so it’s perfect for our Thanksgiving. And, because it is so light and young and fresh, we serve it slightly chilled. We’ll have three different Nouveaux this year. Not sure of their prices, yet, but no more than $15.
2. Grenache, in rose form, Chateau de Campuget from France: This is the perfect wine for ham. Remember the rule — if it’s red meat with red wine and white meat with white wine, then, obviously, it’s pink meat with pink wine. This chateau is located very close to the Provence area in southern France. Provence is known for their great rose wines, but slip outside the area a bit, and the wines don’t cost nearly as much. Serve this wine, and other dry roses, chilled. Fruity but very crisp also, this wine will make you a convert. And your ham will taste better! At $10.99.
3. Malbec: Antigal Uno from Argentina. You might remember this bottle — the big bronze metal number one on the front of the bottle. Smooth but still structured with good tannins. Plum, dark red fruit flavors, hints of cocoa and spice, a perfect pairing with a drumstick and dressing and green bean casserole. And let’s not forget all the other game birds — this wine goes with all of them. For $13.99.
4. Malbec: Mountain Door, also from Argentina. This one is totally different from the Uno. Smoother, milder, just a much softer style of the grape. As easy drinking as this Malbec is, it’s a great crowd pleaser. And still goes great with all the food. And, it’s smoother and milder on your budget so you can get an extra bottle or two so everyone stays happy. None of want an unhappy crowd at our house, do we? For $8.99.
5. Pinot Meunier: From Chandon in California. Pinot Meunier is a cousin to Pinot Noir, very similar flavors but fuller bodied and more pronounced. (This is one of my favorite red Pinots, but almost any Pinot Noir you like will work with turkey.) Pinot Meumier is one of the three grapes that make Champagne. No bubbles here, but one tremendous wine. You may remember the first time we talked about this wine. I told you a story about one taster one time declaring this wine was better than sex. Hmmmm? Now do you remember the story? And how good the wine is? And still the same $22.99 it was years ago.
6. Zinfandel: From Decoy, California. In case you don’t know, Decoy is a label from Duckhorn, in Napa, so this wine’s pedigree is excellent. Big flavors of black fruits and black pepper, smooth but not wimpy texture. Red Zinfandels, almost any of them again, make good matches for holiday dinners In addition, it’s a nice choice because, as a wine, it is mostly an American phenomenon and Thanksgiving is an American holiday. An obvious good reason to choose a red Zin. Decoy is my number one favorite. For $19.99.
7. Cavas de Crianza: From Argentina. Seems we’ve found a lot of good Argentine wines for our holiday. This one is a blend of 40 percent Malbec, 30 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 30 percent Merlot. Cavas, for short, has always been one of my “go to “ bottles for chicken and seafood dinners; Thanksgiving turkey is just as good with it. The best thing about this wine is how smooth its texture is. Perfect for sipping the whole day long. (Unfortunately, though, this will be the last season we’ll be able to get this wine. Issues with the importer, I think.) So, we have to enjoy it again while we can! For $19.99.
8. Dogajolo Red: From Tuscany, Italy. The red “brother” to the white Dog we had on our white list. Still from the same Chianti winery, mostly Sangiovese with some Cabernet Sauvignon. And, as with the white, a different version of the olive tree branches for the label. My thinking is, for this holiday, a red and white can be more useful. Especially for larger groups because you’ll never get it right with just one color choice. For the couple of years that we’ve had this pair of wines, we have all been very happy them in our glasses and with how they’ve looked together on the table. (Appearances can be very important, you know!) For $12.99.
9. Guenoc Victorian Claret: From Lake County, California. Remember the story about the British actress 150 years or so ago? Moved to San Francisco to perform there, bought a ranch in Lake County and the rest is history? And remember how Judge Roy Bean, played by Paul Newman in the movie, was infatuated with her. And the winery still uses her picture on their label? Many of us have been enjoying this wine for some time now. Claret is the old British name for Bordeaux reds, and this wine is a blend of the five red varieties used in Bordeaux — Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Want some good news? Last time we talked about this wine the price was higher. Now, it’s yours for $9.99.
10. Parallel 45: Cotes du Rhone Red, from Southeastern France. Again, a red choice to go with one of last week’s whites. Red Rhone wines are blends, mostly Grenache with bits of Syrah (the French name for Shiraz), Mourvedre, and several other varieties that grow in the area. This is a medium body wine, mellow and smooth, with layers of red fruit flavors (cherries, raspberries), bits of earth and leather and, if you can find it, licorice. Again, a matched pair of bottles always looks nice on the table. For $9.99.
Well, that’s 10 reds. I’ll just bet as soon as this is printed I’ll remember a couple of more that I should have included. I already have two or three whites I left off last week. (To help you not miss any because of me, I’ve got a scratch pad going in the stockroom.) On the other hand, if 20 favorites are enough for you to try, you should have several nice evenings of tasting before the big dinner. Maybe just use an assortment of your favorites for our dinner. You can because it’s yours. Enjoy!