Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving Wine: One Less Thing To Stress About

I've been skimming this year's batch of 'Wines For Thanksgiving' articles and, while many are well intentioned, insightful, and thoroughly researched, it seems to be a soup of recurring debate more than an annual release of new ideas and recommendations.  Do a quick search on the subject and you will find staunch advocates for featuring every varietal - red, white, rose, or bubbly - at your Thanksgiving table.

With no shortage of conflicting advice out there, it can get really confusing.  So, to help simplify wine at Thanksgiving, I offer some humble thoughts on how to approach picking the wine this year.

#1.  It doesn't matter.  Honestly.  It really doesn't.  For so many reasons, what wine you serve at Thanksgiving dinner is immaterial.  From a culinary standpoint, turkey is about as blank a canvas as you can get; it's fairly bland and doesn't really yearn for any one thing.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, you can argue about the juxtaposing flavors of cranberries and gravy, pecan pie and creamed onions, and all that crap, but the bottom line is that there's enough neutrality and oddball one-off dishes that no one wine is going to work perfectly - of fail terribly.  So, go with what you likeRiesling?  Cool.  Zin?  Awesome.  Pinot?  You go!

#2.  You can't please everyone.  Wait a second, yes you can.  If you are somehow miraculously blessed with an extended family and group of friends who all share the same preferences and appreciation for wine, congratulations.  You are one in a million.  The rest of us can go one of two ways.  First, you can attempt to accommodate everyone's preferences by providing a smattering of different bottles.  This is a fool's errand I've run many timesThe best you can do is guess and the inevitable sampling that comes with having many different bottles to choose from is also very confusing to the palate.  The uniqueness of each bottle will get lost in the sea of options.

Second, and much safer, is to pick one wine - just one - and get plenty of it.  Make it a good wine - not necessarily an expensive one, but a pleasing wine.  That will please everyone.  Even if it doesn't, your family's too polite to complain about the homogeneity of your wine selection, right?  If not, screw 'em, come over to my house for Thanksgiving.  (Don't forget the wine.)

#3.  Don't over think it.  Finally, this is the best piece of advice I have to offer  - and here's where we start to get sentimental:   Thanksgiving isn't about the wine.  It's not about the turkey or mashed potatoes or Aunt Francie's parsnip casserole, either.  It's about the people.  So, rather than agonizing over the bottles on the table this year, let's let wine be what it has historically been; a beverage, a social lubricant, and an accompaniment to a meal.  Let it play that role and nothing more, lest we allow ourselves to be distracted from one another.

Instead, take a moment to look around - and, if I can say this without sounding preachy -take stock. This holiday is about family, friends, and togetherness. It's about taking deep breaths, setting our differences aside, and, sometimes, eating a side of humble pie with your turkey. More than anything else, Thanksgiving is about gratitude. And we all have a lot to be grateful for. 

Whatever you drink this Thanksgiving, I hope it is with a smile on your face and warmth in your soul.  Now, who's going to remind me of that when I'm stuck in the cellar, fixated with what one wine to serve?

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