What to drink with the bird

15 Nov
Once, during Prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water. —W.C. Fields
I know a couple of other wiseguys who like a good drink.
What’s more, if provided just the right amount of inebriant, these friends of mine can be talked into anything. It was only three days ago when I floated the idea that they drop everything and compile a list of Thanksgiving wines and beers we can all enjoy on our holiday. And here we are.
Handling the wine picks is Scott Tyree. A wine professional of some standing, you may recall Scott from the time he expertly paired a bunch of wines with my meatballs. TH Strenk, a very fine home brewer, understands more about beer than anybody I know; he will do the holiday beer pairings.
Me, I’ll shut up now. Have a wonderful holiday, everybody.
Cent’anni!
7 Great Thanksgiving Wines
by Scott Tyree
Lini 910 Lambrusco Rosé In Correggio 2010, Emilia-Romagna ($18) I know what you’re thinking: Riunite on ice — niiiiiiiice. But one taste of this high-quality dry Lambrusco happily obliterates any memories of the cloyingly sweet, soda pop-like fizzy wine your auntie enjoyed sipping during the holidays. This wine is lush and creamy with rich red fruit flavors, a mineral tang and razor-sharp acidity. Best of all, it’s blessedly bone dry. I wouldn’t hesitate to drink the Rosé In Correggio throughout the entire Thanksgiving dinner.
Rolly-Gassman Gewurztraminer, Alsace 2009 ($28) Dry Alsatian Gewurztraminer is the go-to white wine that successfully navigates all the big bold flavors of Thanksgiving dinner. Think about it. All those warm spices used in the stuffing, sweet potatoes and sides pretty much reflect the exotic spicy nature of the gewurz grape.
Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosato 2010 ($18) It seems most rosé wines are often unfairly marginalized and described as being “rustic” or “simple.” The Terre Nere Rosato is neither. In fact, I’d say it’s downright elegant. The grape is nerello mascalese, grown in the high elevations of Sicily’s Mt. Etna. It’s citrusy, delicately spiced and wild berry inflected. A perfect foil for the cranberry sauce.
Moulin-à-Vent Clos du Tremblay, Paul Janin 2009 ($15) All Beaujolais is not of the grapey, purple-hued, tongue-staining variety known as Beaujolais Nouveau. In fact, much of the region produces elegant wines that are soft, supple and excellent with food. Gamay is the perfect grape variety to pair with both dark and white turkey meat, and it will cut through rich sauces and gravy. Janin is a great producer.
Evening Land Gamay Noir Celebration, Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon 2009 ($20) An American Gamay that is juicier, rounder and more fruit driven than its French counterpart from Moulin-à-Vent. Undeniably pleasurable to drink.  
Umathum Zweigelt, Burgenland, Austria 2009 ($25) In keeping with the medium-bodied red wine theme. In contrast to the Gamay-based wines, Zweigelt grapes produce wines with an overtly savory character — lots of dark fruit, black pepper and herbal notes. Think a toned down, lean, less alcoholic zinfandel. Both styles work with T-day dishes.
Madeira, New York Malmsey Special Reserve, The Rare Wine Co. ($48) The versatility of Malmsey Madeira (also known as Malvasia Madeira) is impressive. I can’t think of a wine that pairs so easily with pumpkin pie, pecan tarts, custard and chocolate. Tailor-made for Thanksgiving drinking.
How to Choose a Holiday Brew 
by TH Strenk
Matching beer to turkey is pretty straightforward. The trouble starts at the potatoes and pan gravy, chestnut stuffing, cranberry sauce, buttered parsnips, green bean casserole and grandma’s pineapple gelatin mold with cherries on top. No one beer could cover all those bases. This style-by-style guide should help you to keep things balanced.
AMERICAN IPA IPAs are floral and citrusy on the nose, and bitingly bitter in the mouth. The theory here is that bitterness will cut through the heaviness of the unctuous gravy, a refreshing contrast to the big meal. Be careful not to choose a tongue-numbing “extreme” IPA, but one that balances the bitter with some malt. My choice is Southern Tier IPA.
DOPPELBOCK The dark German lager is fairly high in alcohol (6-8%), which will help you keep laughing at Uncle Teddy’s bad jokes. It is less bitter than an IPA, but still refreshing. Doppelbocks will complement both the roast turkey and the marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes. There are plenty to choose from, including Ayinger Celebrator, Paulaner’s Salvator and the American Troegenator. I’ll go with Spaten Optimator.
PUMPKIN BEER This spicy amber ale isn’t apt to work with anything on the table, but some people have come to expect it. (Not Meatball; he hates the stuff.) My pick here is Southhampton Pumpkin Ale, which offers good gourd flavor, with balanced spices and a little vanilla.
HARVEST SEASONAL These malty brews tend to work well with dishes that traditionally show up on the Thanksgiving table. Medium-bodied, Marzen and Oktoberfest beers are great with roast turkey and can handle most accompaniments. Top German producers Paulaner and Spaten brew good Marzens. However, my pick is Sierra Nevada Octoberfest.
SAISON This Belgian’s dryness and acidity would be good foils for the fatty gravy, drumsticks and creamed onions. Its spice, usually coriander, complements the warm fall spices found in many harvest dishes, not to mention dessert. Saison Dupont is a solid choice, but I would pop for Brooklyn Brewery’s Sorachi Ace.
IRISH STOUT Most American stouts are so full of coffee and chocolate they don’t pair well with food. But the dry style of Irish stout is more delicate. It’s also generally low in alcohol, which means you can quaff it all night. I’d go with the old reliable: Guinness.
SOUR STYLES These ales, fermented with wild yeast and bacteria, have bright acidity that perk up flavors and cut through fat. Traditional sour styles include lambic, gueuze, Flemish red and brown ales and Berliner weisse. Of these, Rodenbach Grand Cru is the easiest to find.
PILSNERS Sure, there’s a craft beer revolution going on, but domestic and imported macrobrews still dominate. Not all Pilsners are pallid. The best are bitter, floral and dry with yeasty notes. My choice would be for the original, Pilsner Urquell, from the town of Pilsen in the Czech Republic.

9 Responses to “What to drink with the bird”

  1. Jesse November 16, 2011 at 2:27 am #

    These wine selections are well considered. Good picking. The beer discussion I found very interesting. I might even pick up a bottle or two and give that a try.Happy Thanksgiving, Mr. M. And to your friends.

  2. Anonymous November 16, 2011 at 10:37 am #

    What, no Mateus???? No PBR???You certainly run with a highbrow crowd, meatman. Bet your bird is fresh from some certified organic farm too.Just joshin you. Thanks for the recommendations. And happy holiday back at you.

  3. Mister Meatball November 16, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

    Scott & TomA (crazy?) family member is busting chops. Says we got some nerve not including a wine or beer for the pasta course. Yes, we have a pasta course. Doesn't everybody?It'd be a red most likely.Can you help a meatball out?

  4. Thomas Henry Strenk November 16, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

    A pasta course?!?!?!?This is Americanot Italy! I've never ever been to a Thanksgiving feast that featured pasta in any form. I don't even think it's legal.However, if I were slurping down pasta (red meat sauce, right?) on a non-TDay occasion, I guess I'd go with a sturdy American amber, maybe a Full Sail Amber or Goose Island's Honker.

  5. Thomas Henry Strenk November 16, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

    Jessie: Those Pilgrims weren't sipping Chardonnay at the original Thanksgiving; they were drinking beer!

  6. Claudia November 17, 2011 at 2:05 am #

    There are some surprises here – pumpkin beer? Wondering. Are there really people who don't have a pasta course? Sad.

  7. Thomas Henry Strenk November 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    Claudia: Pumpkin beer seems a natural for Thanksgiving, with its brown ale base and pie spices. Mr. M has an irrational dislike for \”flavored\” beer (although he happily sucks down Belgian ales flavored with coriander and bitter orange peel). The problem is, there aren't many good pumpkin beers. I like Jolly Pumpkin (that's the brewery name) La Parcella and Sixpoint's Autumnation. You might also enjoy a hard cider; there are some excellent varietal versions. Dry ciders have good acidity, which works well with food, and the apple flavor matches much of the meal.

  8. Mister Meatball November 18, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    Pumpkin beer?I'd rather join my beloved Otis the Wonder Dog as he sips from a muddy puddle off the street.

  9. Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti November 21, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    A Gewurztraminer sounds wonderful. A friend gave me a bottle from Navarro Vineyard in Mendocino that I am opening on Thanksgiving.Guinness or Murphys are my beers of choice, but they always taste better in Ireland 🙂

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