For all the lofty talk about wine and food synergies, it’s easy to lose sight of the most important consideration when selecting a wine for your meal: What do you and your companions really want to drink?
By DOUG FROST
Special to The Star
Maybe it’s something red. Maybe it’s white. Maybe it’s bubbly. If you and your dinner mates want sweet wine, drink that. We’ve tried to offer a variety of wines with our 2013 Thanksgiving menu so that everybody can find something that appeals to them.
Yes, there are classic wine and food matches that are reputed to elevate the meal to some glorious, ethereal experience. But for most of us, it’s not the food and drink that elevate the meal, it’s the company. And fussing over the wine is missing the whole point of the thing. You’re supposed to be a great host, and your friends and family are supposed to feel comfortable and welcome. Everything else is gravy. Or jus.
So take all the preening about which wines are supposed to go with which foods as nothing more than a bit of fashion. Humans being as they are, everyone will have a new favorite next month. That’s why they call it taste, right?
• Roast Turkey: Roast turkey is the quintessential American protein (although perhaps meatloaf and hamburgers deserve pride of place, too), but it’s a relatively mildly flavored meat. Those who love big powerful wines won’t think twice about matching their Napa Cabernet with it, but more people seem to prefer something a bit milder.
Perhaps surprisingly, a dry rose can be delightful with turkey; France’s Rhone Valley produces many. But they also make excellent red wines, whether something expensive like Chateauneuf-du-Pape or its far cheaper younger cousin, Cotes du Rhone. The Perrin family produces both those wines and many other worthy ones in the Rhone Valley.
But if you’re in the mood for white wine, I’m absolutely addicted to the notion of German Riesling and turkey. Virtually any of the more than a 100 producers in the “VDP” (the members have an embossed or black eagle on the neck of the bottle) make excellent Rieslings. I’ll be hunting in my cellar for some Rieslings from Schloss Lieser or J.J. Pruem.
• Autumn Salad: They say that salads and wines don’t mix, but I’ve already told you not to pay attention to what “they” say, whoever they are — unless they’re coming over for dinner. The notion that vinegar (which is nothing more than “spoiled” wine) is somehow bad for wine runs counter to experience. And the vinegar in this tasty salad acts as a foil against the sugary pecans and the naturally sweet apple, so any wine that we choose needs to coexist with the sweet and tart elements in the salad.
Sauvignon Blancs vary from bracingly tart to fruity and even vegetal. I’d steer clear of the more vegetal types and consider a tangy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc such as Villa Maria or one of the wonderful Loire Valley versions produced in the 2012 vintage. I hate to get too serious about vintages, but 2012 is one of those years in which everything worked for France’s Loire Valley, at least in terms of quality. The quantities were far below normal, and that’s probably why the quality is so high. Look for Pascal Jolivet.
• Butternut Squash Soup: Now here’s fall in a bowl, and the world of white wine seems thrown open for your perusal. I’d consider a wide variety of Italian white wines (if you’re feeling adventurous) such as Mastroberardino’s Greco di Tufo or Fiano di Avellino. You might also consider a white wine from France’s famed Bordeaux (famed more regularly for its reds). Several producers come to mind: Chateau Bonnet, Chateau Timberlay or Chateau Graville Lacoste. All feature Sauvignon Blanc mixed with another grape called Semillon.
• Pumpkin Cheesecake: I’ve written for years that many of the dessert wines of Middle America, fashioned from hybrid grapevines that have crossed European vines with native American vines, are America’s best. Why? Because they have an incipient tartness that provides the perfect counterbalance to great sweetness. Grapes such as Vignoles and Vidal Blanc are ideal examples, and Missouri’s Montelle Winery has a tremendous version for sale: Vidal Icewine 2012. But if you can’t find that one, try some other Icewines and Late Harvest wines from those grapes. They’re all pretty amazing.
Doug Frost is a wine and spirits consultant based in Kansas City. He holds the rare distinction of master of wine and master sommelier. His column appears in The Star’s Food section. He also blogs at kansascity.com/ chowtown. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.