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Wine and Food Wednesday
The Too Sad Search For The Perfect Thanksgiving Wine

By Stephen Eliot

Well, Thanksgiving Day is tomorrow, and with it awaits the most problematic meal of the year…from a vinous perspective, that is.

As one whose duties include picking out the “right” wines for dinner, in fact, it sometimes looks like nothing so much as the meal from hell.

Most everyone who has ever written about wine has spent too many hours in making wine recommendations for the traditional Thanksgiving table. I say “too many” because I suspect that most, despite the best of intentions and with complete confidence in their selections, have slowly felt futility overtaking them and in time have come to the realization that this is one damned difficult meal to wrestle with and come out on top.

First, there is just too much going on at the table to find a wine that comfortably fits with everything from the turkey to the stuffing to Aunt Harriet’s marshmallow-topped yams and the ubiquitous cranberry sauce, and then there is the problem of trying to please all of your friends and/or relations. We all know that is simply not going to happen.

I have reached the point that, when asked, I will gladly offer up a few of my favorite wines with Thanksgiving dinner, but I no longer make unsolicited recommendations…or at least, I try not to. I happen to enjoy Sherries with the richer, autumnal flavors of the meal, but the dyspeptic looks and disparaging comments I received when trotting out a prized Amontillado some years back led me to save such bottles for a considerably smaller crowd. I like a big-bodied Chardonnay with turkey, but is usually will fail under the weight of the table’s heavier fare, and, while a good Pinot Noir works with much of the meal, it can get a bit shrill and acidy after a mouthful of a sweeter side dish. I confess utter befuddlement at those who make the annual pitch for Syrah as the ideal wine for Thanksgiving dinner, but, if big, red and tannic is what makes you happy, then who am I to argue. Call the meal a “melting pot” or call it culinary anarchy, but abandon any notion that the perfect wine awaits finding.

Now, heaven forbid, I would not for a minute suggest that we forego wine with the meal, and I hold with those who have come to the conclusion that the solution lies in pulling a good many corks from a wide variety of wines and letting your guests join in the debate. As Charlie mused in yesterday’s posting, a good many wine lovers, myself included, have more wine stashed away than we know what to do with. Well, now just might be the time for a trip to the cellar.

Can you please everyone? Yes, but it might take as many bottles as you have guests, and, who knows, you just might find a new “perfect” wine!


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