Thanksgiving is a holiday that brings family and friends together. Everyone tries to put differences aside and think of the things for which he or she is grateful and bask in good company.
Those differences don’t have to be political or religious ones (although they’re probably the most entertaining), but can be about “traditional” Thanksgiving dishes vs. making changes to the menu. I admit to feeling for both sides on this one, especially if all the food is good. Change can be a nice thing in a holiday meal, and can bring out flavors in traditional foods that make them even better. Still, when I was talking with my mom about Thanksgiving desserts and she mentioned she’d be making her pecan tart, it instantly transported me back to the days when we had it every year.
Choosing a wine is less divisive, because people can (and often do) drink what they want at Thanksgiving — for some reason it’s unlike any other large dinner party and guests don’t necessarily feel obligated to drink what their host provides. (Of course, everyone offers to share whatever gets brought to the table). Some hosts ask everyone to bring wine, so guests bring what they like. Still, if you’re not doing pot-luck wine, you might think it’s tough to decide on wines to serve with the Thanksgiving meal, because there are so many different things to eat.
Pinot Noir seems to be a traditional Thanksgiving wine of choice these days, with good reason — it’s more acidic than most red wines, and in some cases more on the medium-bodied side, both of which make it pair better with food. (Even though Thanksgiving dinner is often a lot of rich foods, they’re not necessarily going to go well with a full-bodied red.) Alsatian varietals, like Riesling, are surging in popularity too, because the little bit of residual sweetness even in the dry versions helps bring the dishes together, and they have enough acidity to stand up to the gravy, cream, and butter.
But I want to make a case for another choice: rosés. While they’re great summer wines, I think they have the right balance of flavor, acidity, and intensity to pair beautifully with your Thanksgiving meal.
I had an interesting conversation last night at a tasting about this. The objection I got was that many rosés have too much light fruit and not enough heft. The thing is, though, by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, most of that year’s rosé has been in the bottle since January or February and has aged while in there. You will still taste some of the original light fruit flavor. But because rosés are made (almost) exclusively with red wine grapes and contain some of the color and flavor from the skins, they age a little bit like red wines. Well-made rosés become more mature. Even if they’ve got plastic stoppers in the bottle, they’ll have interacted with the air in the bottle to age. And if they’re in bottles with natural cork, they’re definitely meant to have that interaction with air to create deeper flavors.
In fact, many of my wine producers in France like drinking last year’s rosé (the 2011 vintage — “this year’s” rosé is 2012) better than this year’s vintage for just that reason. (Part of it may be because they still have some around at the winery, but that doesn’t mean they’re not tasty!) And our Spanish rosado producer in Cigales adds Verdejo, a white grape, to rosés made from Tempranillo and Grenache to provide enough acidity to age the wines for at least two years for greater rich flavor.
So our 2012 rosés are entering their maturity, and they’ll drink beautifully for another year. They don’t taste sweet, but they bring out the sweetness in other foods (like your sweet potato casserole). There’s still enough acidity to stand up to the richness of the gravy, and some light and darker fruit flavors to go with turkey and stuffing. Best of all, they’re a beautiful color and look great on the table!
We got a bunch of 2012 rosés in over the past couple of months. I’ll be introducing them and their producers to you properly in future blog posts, but here’s a brief overview, along with an incentive to try them.
Domaine Sainte Cécile du Parc Notes Frivoles 2012 ($14). From Pézenas in the Languedoc, this rosé is made of equal parts Grenache, Cabernet Franc, and Carignan. Carignan is a grape that’s generally blended into heavier red wines, and has a vivid color, very dark fruit flavor, and a hint of spice like cloves. But made into rosé, it has a wonderful flavor. Cabernet Franc sometimes has a kind of bell pepper flavor to it, but the rosé process gives you the fruit without the vegetable flavor.
Château de Clapier Rosé 2012 ($13). From Mirabeau in the Luberon. The wine is mostly Cinsault, the typical grape for rosés in southern France, and that contributes the bulk of the light fruit flavor. But there’s also Grenache, Syrah, and Pinot Noir in there, all of which give the rosé a lot of deeper fruit too. It’s even got a little whiff and flavor of sea salt in there, according to one friend who tried it, and that makes it especially good with food. I hadn’t thought about wine having any kind of salty quality to it before, but a few weeks ago I spoke with an Italian winemaker who used the word “sapido” with regard to wine — it’s the same as “sapid” in English and refers to a savory quality, and saltiness is definitely a part of that.
Domaine de Mairan Aurore Boréale 2012 ($12). From Puisserguier in the Languedoc. The name means Aurora Borealis, and is a tribute to Jean-Jacques d’Ortous de Mairan, Louis XIV’s science advisor, who owned the property and made wine there. Dr. Mairan wrote a treatise on the Aurora Borealis for the king back in the early 18th century. The rosé is made from Grenache Gris and Merlot, the “gray” Grenache is a varietal used almost exclusively for rosé and gives the wine almost a salmon color. Fairly substantial body, and lots of fruit too, along with deeper fruit flavors from the Merlot.
Les Vignerons du Pic Terrasses de Perret Mourvèdre 2012 ($10). From Assas in the Languedoc. Les Vignerons du Pic is a cooperative winery producing wines ranging from some of the Languedoc’s lofty appellations (Pic St. Loup and Grès de Montpellier) to Pays d’Oc wines like this rosé. It’s 100% Mourvèdre, a grape that’s usually blended into red wines in small amounts. In rosé it’s milder, and with a lot of fresher fruit flavor you might not expect.
Of course we still have our Cave la Romaine Côtes du Ventoux Rosé Tradition 2012 ($10) and a few other selections on the Summer Pinks page of the website. And we’re offering an extra 10% off any purchase of rosés through the end of this month, in addition to our regular volume discounts. Use the code Pink1113 when you order and you’ll get the discount for the rosés even if you’re buying other wines.***
So try a rosé next week with your Thanksgiving meal, and of course with all the leftovers too. Not only will it bring a hint of summer to your fall table, it’ll make everything go better together — with the food, anyway. We’re not making any promises about politics or religion!
(In case you needed any more convincing that pink is indeed the color of choice, check out this clip from the 1957 movie “Funny Face.” You’ll never settle for plain old red or white again!)
Believe it or not, this is the sixth year we’re writing a Thanksgiving-theme blog post. I still have a lot of ideas for Thanksgiving, but since I think that most people still want to go the traditional route for the meal, I was looking for something that everyone has had at one time or another (and most remember fondly), but that could stand some improvement.
Many of you know that I occasionally review cookbooks for Capital Cooking with Lauren DeSantis. It’s a great blog filled with lots of recipes, reviews, tips, and clips from Lauren’s cooking show. Last year for Thanksgiving she posted a recipe that’s a reworking of the traditional green bean casserole, and Lauren very kindly gave me permission to share it with you here. There’s not a can of mushroom soup or fried onions to be had. This makes for more work than opening the cans, but the good thing is that you can do everything ahead including assembling the casserole, then pop it in the oven while the turkey is resting to heat it all through. And you’ll have something absolutely delicious in the end.
I’ve added a variation to the topping that’s browned Panko bread crumbs. They add a nice crunch, but feel free to leave them out if you’re running out of space on the stove. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
*** The fine print: The discount applies through 11/30/13, and only on wines listed in the Summer Pinks category on http://www.firstvine.com. Regular volume discounts still apply for purchases of 6 bottles or more on all wines. The discount applies only to the price of the wine itself, and not toward delivery or shipping charges, if applicable.
Serves 6 – 8
3 cups vegetable or canola oil
6 large shallots, cut into very thin rounds, rings separated (or use medium-sized yellow onions)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 pounds green beans, trimmed and halved
1/4 cup unsalted butter
One pound button mushrooms, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1 14.5 ounce can of chicken broth
1 cup milk
Fried onion topping: In a mini-deep fryer set to 375 degrees, heat oil (you can also use a 3-quart saucepan and candy thermometer). Line a baking sheet with paper towels. In a large bowl, toss together shallots or onions and 1 1/4 cups flour until evenly coated. In batches, shake off excess flour from shallots and fry until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes, adjusting heat if shallots are browning too quickly. With a slotted spoon, transfer to sheet and season with salt. Set aside.
Green beans: In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook green beans until crisp-tender, 6 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Pat dry.
Mushroom Sauce: In a large saucepan, melt butter and a little olive oil over medium-high. Add mushrooms and cook until liquid has evaporated, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup flour and cook, stirring, until incorporated, about 1 minute. Whisking constantly, gradually add broth, then milk. Bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Assembly: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Add green beans to mushroom sauce and toss to coat. Transfer mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bake until bubbling around edges, about 15 minutes. Serve topped with fried shallots.
Topping variation: heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium-sized skillet and add 3/4 cup of Panko breadcrumbs. Turn the heat to medium-high and toast the bread crumbs. When they’re brown, pour them from the skillet onto a plate and let them cool. Combine with the fried shallots on top of the casserole after baking.