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Written by Bill Citara -- BT Contributor   
November 2012

Red, white, and you: Agreeable wine for $12 or less

OPix_Vino_11-12kay, quick quiz. The original Thanksgiving celebration in 1621 was: A. A party to commemorate a bountiful harvest. B. A cynical grab of the fruits (and meats and vegetables) of others.

The Pilgrims who put on that original celebration were: A. Simple people who fled religious persecution in England. B. Anal-retentive hypocrites with a violent streak as long as a hose.

Our current Thanksgiving celebration is about: A. Giving thanks for all the good things life has brought us. B. Peddling hormone-addled turkeys and other crap from the holiday-industrial complex.

The typical Thanksgiving meal is: A. A heartwarming compilation of iconic American comfort foods. B. A calorie- and cholesterol-ridden mélange of dishes we wouldn’t think of eating at any other time of year.

The best beverage to pair with the typical Thanksgiving meal is: A. Wines of balance and restraint, generally with lower alcohol, a bit of fruit, and good acidity. B. Beer, or if weird old Uncle Henry is at the table, vodka.

Whether you are more inclined to choose A or B depends, I guess, on whether you see the glass of life half-full of Dom Perignon or raw sewage. Since fine Champagne is always preferable to ick, yuck, and blech, this space will go with A, at least when it comes to what to drink with our annual fall orgy of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and really bad football by teams that couldn’t beat their own grandmothers.

The age-old problem of Thanksgiving, beyond whether to get drunk and ignore Uncle Henry or stuff a sock in his mouth and lock him in the closet, is finding wines that play well with the various and disparate dishes of the day, which generally means avoiding the Axis of Ubiquity that is Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. White wine blends I find particularly successful, also varietals that balance bright fruit and crisp acidity, like Viognier and Riesling. As for reds, Pinot Noir goes with everything, and rosés are pretty versatile, too.

That makes the 2011 Domaine Hourchart Côtes de Provence as good a place to start as any. It’s a classic Provencal rosé, medium-bodied and well balanced, its strawberry and raspberry fruit tempered by bracing citrus acidity and a pronounced earthy-mineral tang. It’s the kind of easy-to-drink wine that should appeal to just about anybody, and would be an especially good partner with Thanksgiving ham.

But on Thanksgiving, we’re mostly talking turkey, so let’s look at a pair of whites and a pair of reds that help build a better bird.

Torrontes, the poor man’s Viognier, is both an underappreciated varietal and an excellent value. For example, there’s the Elm Tree 2011 Torrontes (Mendoza, Argentina), a lush, fruity, full-figured wine that smells like a honeysuckle field in summertime bloom. Yet all those floral and tropical fruit flavors are balanced by equally bracing acidity, and at two bottles for $12, the value is remarkable.

That same blend of sensuous fruit and sensible acidity marks the 2010 Clean Slate Riesling. This German import, at only 10.5 percent alcohol, is ideal for all-day sipping, yet delivers a mouthful of silky peach and apricot fruit riding atop a sturdy lemon-lime backbone, making it an excellent companion to the usual T-Day bird and even a big platter of stone crabs.

You don’t have to be a fat bastard (or a skinny bitch) to appreciate Thierry & Guy’s 2010 Fat Bastard Pinot Noir. Just kick back and enjoy the surprising nuances of this light-bodied French product, from its bright, fresh strawberry-raspberry aromas with hints of black olive to the lean berry fruit and earthy, mineral flavors.

Nor do you have to be a loon, smoking or otherwise, to enjoy the 2011 Smoking Loon Pinot Noir. Its ripe strawberry fruit with hints of nutmeg and citrus show off its California heritage, and though fleshier than the Bastard, it still maintains a welcome balance.

If you want something with a little more weight, perhaps to complement a standing rib roast or leg of lamb, you could do far worse than Famille Perrin’s 2010 Côtes du Rhone Reserve. It delivers a mouth-filling blast of rich, ripe black-cherry fruit, nicely restrained by soft tannins and acidity, and will leave you with the not-at-all-unappealing choice of:

A. Finishing the bottle. B. Opening another one. (This time, actually, we’ll take B.)

 

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