No meal all year gets as much attention as the one tomorrow. For many families, it’s an opportunity to celebrate decades-old rituals. For others it’s a chance to see how far tradition can be bent without breaking, or even how far one can depart from everything conventional and still call it Thanksgiving.
For most of our history, cider and beer would have been the traditional accompaniment to the festive harvest suppers the Thanksgiving meal is intended to recall. It was only in the late 20th century, as Americans gradually shifted their allegiance from these homey beverages to wine, that a new fault line in national values emerged over the question of whether roast turkey and a boiled turnip were better served by a bottle of red or a bottle of white.
We come down firmly on both sides of this question. Either is right. Both even better.
Turkey is forgiving poultry - brined, roasted, grilled, or stuffed. Although exotic side dishes can occasionally pose a pairing challenge, it’s not that hard to land on a couple of bottles that will do justice to your menu by keeping a few enological truisms in mind. First, hefty wines seldom prove as versatile as those toward the lighter end of the spectrum. Second, high levels of natural acidity give life and freshness to wine that make the meal sing. Third, unoaked or very lightly oaked wines let fruit and soil flavors shine through.
Our practice has long been to put both red and white on the table and let guests choose for themselves, even shift from one to another. It makes diners happy.
Whether hewing close to tradition or veering purposely from it, the one unchanging element is the holiday table itself. To gather around it is to link ourselves with generations of Americans who in good times and bad have seldom failed to find something worth being thankful for. A golden bird and a pumpkin pie may be on the menu, but memory, community, and continuity are the true bill of fare.
Elk Cove Willamette Valley Pinot Gris 2010 Around $18 Lovely balance of sweet, high-toned pear-like fruit offset with some brown spice and just spanking acidity; nicely round, mouth-filling texture, too. A shade off-dry. At Lower Falls Wine, Newton, 617-332-3000; Gordon’s Fine Wine, Waltham, 781-893-1900; Cambridge Wine & Spirits, 617-864-7171.
Chateau Ste. Michelle/Dr. Loosen “Eroica’’ Columbia Valley Riesling 2010 Generous, genial apple-pear fruit and pleasing mineral elements. Good balance of acidity with a bit of residual sugar. All around, the nicest edition of Eroica to come our way and a versatile choice for the holiday table. Around $21. At Curtis Liquors, South Weymouth, 781-331-2345; Colonial Spirits, Acton, 978-263-7775; Costco, Waltham, 781-622-3883.
Ravines Wine Cellars Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc 2008 Lightish but lively red berry fruit is tinged with cedar and spice and offset with firmish acids; appealing cool-climate character, hints of complexity, and a satisfying finish. Around $20. At Ball Square Fine Wine & Liquors, Somerville, 617-623-9500; Central Bottle Wine + Provisions, Cambridge, 617-225-0040; Marty’s Fine Wines, Newton, 617-332-1230.
Owen Roe Winery “Abbot’s Table’’ Columbia Valley Red Blend 2009/2010 Here’s that genuine oddity: a blend of multiple grape varieties from diverse sources that does not seem muddled. On the contrary, this is a full-featured, neatly articulated red blend that capably herds a good deal of juicy, sweet New World fruit, acid, and tannins into an appetizing, well-balanced table-friendly package. Around $25. At Bauer Wine & Spirits, Back Bay, 617-262-0363; Cambridge Wine & Spirits; Fifth Avenue Liquors, Framingham, 508-872-7777.