Autumn’s cool weather has us hankering for heartier foods and bigger, bolder wines. Oaky whites and tannic reds that seem plodding in the heat of summer become more attractive in fall and winter, warming us like a cozy fire with their richness and higher alcohol. But the chill in the air is no reason to forsake the wines we enjoy all summer. We just need to forget about the temperature outside and concentrate on the food we’re eating and which wines pair best with it.
Take rosé, for example. We enjoy it in summer because it’s supremely refreshing, but also because it pairs so well with a wide variety of light summery dishes such as salads, garlicky vegetable plates and the like. The qualities that make rosé food-friendly in summer — its crisp acidity and bright fruit — don’t disappear once the mercury drops. So now that we’ve become enamored of rosé, we should not simply consign it to one season.
Thanksgiving is an excellent showcase for rosé. The cornucopia of flavors on our holiday table calls out for versatile, food-friendly wines. We typically hear recommendations for pinot noir, but rosé is just as nimble. So why not a rosé of pinot noir? The Inman Family Endless Crush rosé 2014 is exceptional (see this week’s Recommendations), with vibrant strawberry flavors and energetic acidity. It could easily take you through the first part of your Thanksgiving feast, and maybe all the way to the pumpkin pie.
“Thanksgiving offers such a jumble of flavors on one plate that it’s hard to pin down what wine to serve,” says Julian Mayor, head sommelier at Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown. “Riesling and pinot noir tend to be trusty sidekicks because they go well with the sweeter flavors of the Thanksgiving meal, but rosé does the same. In fact, it offers the best of both white and red. It’s refreshing, with lush fruit to pair with the cranberry and sweet potato and the ability to stand up to a hearty meal and yet not overpower a lighter one.”
Mayor’s obvious enthusiasm for rosé with Thanksgiving dinner goes beyond the traditional menu to embrace the diversity we bring to today’s holiday table.
“So many of my friends make Southeast Asian or Caribbean-themed Thanksgiving dinners, combining flavors from foreign cuisines with the classic holiday fare,” he says. “Rosé works well with cuisines you normally don’t associate with wine. It’s simply delicious, as a starter or with a meal.”
I would add a caveat: This time of year, rosé tastes better when it’s not so cold. We want its refreshing quality in summer, but now that the weather is cooler, drinking it a bit warmer — cooler than room temperature but not straight-from-the-fridge frigid — will emphasize the fruit flavors that will play so well with our holiday meals.
My own maxim for Thanksgiving wine pairing is, “open one of everything.” All those dishes on the table, and all those people around it, cry out for variety. Almost any wine will pair well with something on the menu. Many wine lovers would agree, and Mayor is no exception.
“Once the main course comes around, almost everyone is asking, ‘Where’s my red wine?’ I recommend offering both white and red at the Thanksgiving table and trying them with different foods,” Mayor says. “I would also throw a rosé in there, and see if that’s not the one you keep going back to. You never know: Thanksgiving could become just as much about the wine as it is about the sides.”