No meal is more difficult to match with wine than Thanksgiving Day dinner. There's just so much going on: sweet, savory, dark, light; proteins for every corner of the earth and … Aunt Jane's rutabaga gratin.
If the kitchen is going to send out one of everything, I say the wine cellar should too.
Not much bests Champagne as a good wine to begin. For a killer bubbly on the dry side, check out Charles Ellner Brut Champagne 1988 ( $55 ) . Ellner owns more than 140 acres of vineyards, of which more than 50% are planted with Chardonnay. This wine is a felicitous combination of tight structure, firm acidity and delicious, deep notes of toffee, fresh toast, lemon and honey. It's a powerful wine, but in the way DeNeuve is powerful, with enormous class.
If you're aiming to please a wide range of people, especially those looking to wean themselves from white zinfandel ( or even Coca-Cola ) , give a try to the moderately dry Drappier Carte d'Or Demi-Sec Champagne N.V. ( $24 ) . Drappier has produced Champagne since 1908. Their plantings are strong in Pinot Noir ( 70% ) , with Chardonnay ( 15% ) and Pinot Meunier ( 15% ) making the balance. This is drier than many demi-secs, due in no small part to its very snappy acidity ( it finishes nearly dry ) . It tastes of pear and Golden Delicious apples, with hints of honey and rosewater.
Here are three white wine suggestions, from heavier to lighter. All would go well with a range of flavors and tastes; in other words, T-Day dinner. There's also a suggestion of a dry rosé, to my mind the absolutely most versatile wine for any table anywhere.
Olivia Chardonnay Padthaway South Australia 2001 ( $22 ) : The name comes from Olivia Newton-John, part owner. The grapes for this wine come from the famed Terra Rosa soils of Padthaway. They were fermented in new French wood, then left on their less for two months. The wine has an intense bouquet of nectarine and peaches, with lots of toasty tones, and is fat and plush.
Danieli Pinot Grigio Colli Orientali del Friuli 2001 ( $9 ) : The respected wine consultant, Giorgio Grai, made this wineand it shows. This little white has it all: a lot of perfume ( roses, orange rind ) , full flavors of citrus, honey, melon; and enough acidity to close a sip with a snap. Freshness and fruitiness are its calling cards ( it was fermented and briefly aged in tank only ) so drink it up early.
Fontana di Papa Frascati 2001, Lazio, Italy ( $8 ) : This is a little drier than the Danieli and comes from the hills near Rome. It is refreshing and clean with soft citrus flavors that marry up with tastes of ripe pear. Frascati is the kind of wine that you will always find served in small pitchers or carafes in any Roman restaurant. It is meant to go with whatever's on the table, even the bread and olive oil.
Chateau Mourgues de Gres Rosé Les Galets Rosés Costiéres de Nimes 2002 ( $9 ) : A "mourgues" is a convent and this ancient one sits toward the end of the glacial galets ( or round stones ) made famous from the vineyards of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, in the area of Costiéres de Nimes, an up-and-comer in the southern Rhone. The house is known for its rosés. This one is a mix of 60% Syrahrather rare for a roséand 40% Grenache. It is nearly a light red, full of juicy strawberry tastes and aromas, and is something you want to gulp rather than sip. Enjoy with an enormous range of foods, cold and warm.
Someone like your Uncle Jack is going to want a "man's wine," that is, something red. Well, hand one to him. The Cabernet is soft and smooth; the Zinfandel will take the enamel off his teeth; and the Cotes du Rhone Village is the best because it's so delicious.
Kopparossa Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Coonawarra 1999 ( $17 ) : Coonawarra wines tend to be highly aromatic and as soft as clouds. This wine combines dark berry aromas and flavours with marks of licorice, dark dried mushroom, tar, some spiciness, and wood and cedar. The tannins are typically Coonawarra: plush and round-the-mouth.
Madrigal Zinfandel Napa Valley 2000 ( $24 ) : After more than 50 years of growing grapes, in 1995 the Madrigal family built its own winery. Its vineyards, all high-density plantings, are in the northern half of Napa Valley. You could pick out their Zins in a crowdfull-throttle black raspberry flavors; waves of exuberant, fresh fruit; hints of black pepper and allspice to finish it all.
Cave de la Colombe Cote du Rhone Villages 2001 ( $15 ) : Gushing with lovely black raspberry fruit, this is a beautifully constructed, spicy complex wine that is great with grilled foods. This is a brilliantly made, rich, forward wine Aromas of black raspberries and black pepper lead into a full-flavored, rich palate.
Burp. And for the end of the meal, something sweet and juicy. Here's a Sauternes-like wine that would fill the bill for any dessert except something not too sweet.
Grande Maison Monbazillac Cuvée du Chateau Sauvignon 1998 ( $29 ) : Monbazillac, a region in the district of Bergerac a bit south and east of Bordeuax, makes for a wine in style much like Sauternes, that is, a sweet wine produced from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle grapes that have ripened so much ( and hopefully taken on the "noble rot" of botrytis cinerea ) that they have begun to raisinate. This wine is unlike a typical Monbazillac because it is made of Sauvignon Blanc alone. It will taste of honey, cooked peaches, Mirabelle plums and citrus.