All things considered," W.C. Fields once grumbled, "i'd rather drink cider."
The occasion was Thanksgiving. The year is unrecorded . The great comic should be remembered by wine lovers, if only for his memorable, although unprintable, denounciation of water as a beverage. Instead wine was served.
Selecting a wine or wines for Thanksgiving or any other holiday feast is a difficult task. Usually tradition or family preferences dictate the menu and only the most persuasive or dogmatic oenophile can convince the family to forego a favorite relish or stuffing for the sake of wine.
As happened at a recent tasting, a pretty rose went well with appetizer olives but faded after that. White wine retreated before the acid of cranberries. Red wine grew bitter and resentful in the face of chicken livers and strong spices in the stuffing.
My own instinct is not to tamper with the main course. Although turkey is a bland white meat, such a variety of side dishes surround, and are piled on top of it, that a light red wine is more suited to the ensemble than a white.
Thanksgiving is the American holiday, so there may be a temptation to wave the flag and choose a native wine.Four Maryland and Virginia vineyards, Montbray, Boordy, Provenza and Meredyth, can fill the bill with wine from recent harvests. All have some distribution in local wine shops.
Looking to California, there are a number of gamay or gamay beaujolais wines on the shelves including those of Robert Mondavi, Sebastiani and Chappellet and Raymond (the last two available only at Harry's Liquors in Southwest). For those who want to look across the Atlantic, there is a plentiful supply of 1978 beaujolais in the stores. Rather than going to an estate wine, buy a Beaujolais Villages such as that of the Caves de la Republic (at Calvert and other shops) or the Beaujolais of Protheau (at Bell Liquors and other shops).Bothe show why the vintage was so highly regarded. Serve them slightly chilled to make the most of their light, fruity qualities.
If you want to pull the cork from a bottle of superb wine at the feast, serve a separate fish course (if the wine is white), or present a selection of cheeses before dessert (to support a great red). Port, hopefully with a cheese such as stilton, would be appropriate after dessert -- or as appropriate as anything can be until a day or so after a Thanksgiving meal.
A final thought on champagne or sparkling wine: Very dry (brut or nature ) sparkling wine is an excellent appetizer. It stimulates the appetite and helps create a festive mood. Restrain your impulse to serve this style of wine with dessert. Its tartness surely will clash with the sweetness of any pie, cake or pudding that is presented. Turn instead to a demi-sec sparkling wine, perhaps from a California producer such as Hanns Kornell or Almaden, or choose an Asti-Spumante from Italy.