By Celia Strong
As we plow into the holidays at full speed, we need to talk about turkey wines. Specifically, wines that go with turkey (not wines that come from Turkey. There is always one person who thinks that’s what “turkey wines” are, and that person is always ready with “I didn’t know there were wines from Turkey!” comments. I have learned to just keep moving on, after I chuckle a bit.)
What I thought would be good this year is to review some good white wine choices this week, and some good red wine choices next week. That way we have time to go over more than a couple of each. And, that way everyone has more options for their own tables. Don’t forget, Thanksgiving is a whole long weekend of eating, shopping, visiting, traveling. Options and choices are good things — it is a LONG weekend.
Now, in alphabetical order, (because we had to have some order) we can start our white wine list.
Bertrand Picpoul de Pinet is a wine from the Languedoc area in southeastern France. Picpoul is the short name for the grape, and you may remember from when we talked about it before, this name comes from the “Old French” word for lip pucker. (Hint, hint, this is a dry, dry wine, with lemon, apple and mineral flavors.) Pucker. The Bertrand Picpoul is slightly fuller bodied than other Picpouls, so it is better suited to go with a plate full of turkey, dressing, and all the rest. It is also dry enough to pair well with ham, and refreshing enough for you to keep sipping on it all weekend. At $9.99, this wine can help many of us get through the LONG. (I like my new nickname for this weekend: LONG.)
Blindside is a new wine that we haven’t talked about before. It comes from the ever popular Orin Swift group of wines. It is a California blend of 35 percent Chardonnay, 60 percent of Rhône varietals, still grown in California (Viognier, Roussane, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc), and 5 percent aromatic grapes (Semillon and Riesling). As is the Orin Swift style, this white is full-bodied and rich and smooth textured. And juicy in your mouth. Only in the United States can a wine like this break whatever barriers there are in the wine world. Mixing all these varieties with no regard for laws or traditions. (You know in Europe how the laws, based on centuries of traditions, define and control their wines.). For our uniquely American holiday, what is more perfect than a uniquely American wine? $24.99.
A white Côtes-du-Rhône wine has always been one of my first choices for a Thanksgiving white wine. This year, I am sorry to tell you, the Jaboulet Parallèle 45 is going to see its last Thanksgiving in South Carolina. (Seems the distributor isn’t going to carry it any more.) But, this wine is special enough to grab a few bottles while they last. Made from 50 percent Grenache Blanc, 20 percent Marsanne, 20 percent Viognier and 10 percent Bourboulenc, this wine is full-bodied with no oak aging. It tastes best with just about 30 or 40 minutes of chilling. Too cold and it just closes in on itself. Yes, of course, there are other white Côtes-du-Rhône wines, really good ones. I just have a soft spot for this one. $15.99.
For those of us who have ham, we’ve learned pink wine with pink meat. Right? We have learned that? Phew! Santi Rosé, which is actually a rose of Bardolino wine, comes from northeastern Italy. It is made mostly from the Corvina grape. This wine is, first, a lovely shade of pink. But, its flavors of red berries and flowers with crisp acidity have made it very popular for many years. It is light and clean and crisp and refreshing. Just right for balancing the saltiness of the ham and still good with the turkey meat also. Well chilled, it tastes even better. $10.99.
Another good choice, from the same part of Italy, is the Scaia White. Maybe I should call it Bianco, it is Italian after all. Whatever. This wine is fuller bodied, smooth and unctuous. A weight and a texture both to support all the flavors in all your foods. Still dry, just rich too. It is made from Garganega and Chardonnay grapes from the Veneto region. Surprisingly, if you don’t know this is an Italian wine, you can easily mistake it for an American wine. And, for the days after Thanksgiving, this wine will go perfectly with turkey leftovers in cream sauces. Guaranteed to make the leftovers special. For $13.99.
From Washington state, we have our next white wine option. And this one is not only a great tasting wine, but one that is so well priced you can drink much more of it without felling guilty. And serve it to family and friends without feeling guilty. Thorny Rose Pinot Grigio is one of those few wines that comes along every once in a while that is almost too good to believe. But believe it you can. Clean and crisp, medium bodied with peach, pear, citrus flavors and good acidity. Again, dry enough for a ham and flavorful enough for a turkey and dressing. And easy to open screwtop, too. This wine drinks way better than its $5.99 price.
From South Africa comes a great choice for our holiday dinners. The Tormentoso Old Vine Chenin Blanc. This wine comes from 25-year-old vines, and we have talked several times about how old vine grapes have more developed and complex flavors. These are grown on the rocky, wild and windy coast, struggling for their nutrients. Hard work is good for grapes, too. Fermented in stainless steel tanks, a small bit of this wine is barrel aged and then blended back in with the rest. Vanilla nuances come from the wood. Peach, nectarine, apricots, coconut and flowers are just some of the many flavors. Medium bodied but very sturdy, this wine is such a great example of what Chenin Blanc can be. And, definitely one of my favorite choices. $13.99.
And, last but not least, Scooby Dooby Doo: Uby Colombard-Ugni Blanc. This is a French blend. You, hopefully, remember Ugni Blanc is the grape that is distilled to make Cognac. And the same grape that is called Trebbiano in Italy where it is used also to make balsamic vinegars. Both the Colombard and the Ugni Blanc are fairly neutral grapes, mellow and not too distinctive in their flavors or textures. Makes the blend just right to balance the abundance of flavors and textures on Thanksgiving day dinner plates. And makes this wine easy drinking for most of us. (Easy drinking is important for the LONG.) And $9.99 easy price too.
So, there we have some choices. Of course, special menus and special friends or family at your table may need special wines. These are some ideas to start you thinking. In the meantime, try re-tasting some of these. Fortification for the LONG. Enjoy.