contributed by Zachary Sussman.
Chances are that this isn’t the only “Thanksgiving Wine” post you’ll read this year. The yearly roundup of turkey-friendly tipples has become an inevitable fixture of the holiday season, perhaps even a bit of a cliché. And yet, with its nearly schizophrenic hodgepodge of textures and tastes— from sweet to salty and everything in between— the traditional Thanksgiving meal poses a notorious challenge for even the best-intentioned wine pairing efforts.
To wash down your kosher bird with an equally sanctified wine only increases the difficulty— particularly since the familiar regiment of big, tannic Cabs and buttery, oak-driven Chards will all but drown out the wide spectrum of flavors that miraculously cohere at the Thanksgiving table.
For some expert guidance, I recently spoke with Robin Schwartz— the kosher wine buyer for Garnet Wines & Liquors, one of the city’s top retailers— who offered her personal “top picks” for Thanksgiving whites and reds this season.
As a general rule, steering clear of the beaten-path rewards the adventurous wine buyer, and the examples at hand prove no exception. Each of Robin’s selections avoids more obvious “international” grapes, such as Pinot Noir or Merlot, favoring lesser-known, indigenous European varieties transplanted to Israeli soil. The results are versatile, food-friendly kosher wines that are equally capable of tackling the tartness and tang of Aunt Judith’s cranberry sauce and the savory, earthy notes of the stuffing.
Another spectacular offering from this intrepid Lower Gallilee winery, this succulent expression of Chenin Blanc harkens back to the marvelous examples of that grape originating in France’s Loire Valley— most famously, those from the appellation of Vouvray. Firmly dry, yet exhibiting just the faintest kiss of residual sugar, it maintains a striking harmony between generous orchard fruit (no doubt a product of the warm Israeli sun) and a brilliant wash of acidity, perfect for cutting through even the heartiest holiday fare.
With turkey, Robin advises, one ought to drink something fresher and lighter in style, without too much tannic structure, richness, or oak. If an Israeli Cabernet doesn’t quite fit the bill (or the beak, as the case may be), this mouth-watering Tempranillo achieves a perfect balance. Based upon the primary grape in the Spanish reds of Rioja and sourced from vineyards planted high in the mountains surrounding Jerusalem— where cooler temperatures retain the wine’s freshness— here’s a bottle that delivers all the juicy roundness your bird deserves without interfering with its subtle flavors.
Now that’s truly something to be thankful for!
Note from Liz: Thank you to Robin Schwartz, for helping to sort through the Israeli and Kosher wine choices. We’ll be serving your two suggestions at out table.
And another thank you to Bertrand Celce for sharing his photo. He blogs at Wine Terroirs.