What makes an event special? Past celebrations for me are book marked in my mind by memorable wines. Indeed I still remember well the 1870 Lafite I drank, a legendary wine. In reality, while the legend lives, the wine was dead, so it was more in part the generosity and thoughtfulness of the provider which ingrained the occasion for posterity.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, you have the chance to mark the event with a great wine using turkey as the foil.  Based on the basic rule of thumb — white wine with white meat — most people will steer correctly toward a white or rose. In fact a full bodied, oak-aged chardonnay from a warm climate will work well if you serve your turkey with gravy, as is common in Europe during Christmas.

In general, the more delicately flavored the food, the subtler the wine should be. On this auspicious occasion, turkey is normally roasted and, depending on the accoutrements (i.e., stuffing incorporating truffles, nuts, black pepper or even a cranberry sauce your choice), can handle anything from a medium-bodied oak-aged white to medium reds with a core of ripe fruit, such as Pinots from hotter areas.

If you are looking to create a memorable occasion, you may want to consider an old vintage, say a 10- to 15-year-old Bordeaux — but please hold the cranberry sauce. As wine ages, it become less tannic and the flavors become more subtle and integrated, thus making it easier to match with turkey.
Though note, as part of this aging process, the color moves from purple-red to red, eventually to brown and amber as the tannins precipitate, leaving sediment. So if you are opting for an older wine, be sure to stand the bottle upright at least 24 hours before decanting. When the time comes, carefully remove the entire capsule, wipe the lip with a cloth, place a light (either the traditional candle flame, or a torch works as well) behind the shoulder of the bottle and pour steadily into the decanter. The light illuminates the contents and shows exactly when the deposit comes up the neck so that you can stop pouring.

If you do this in front of your friends and family be sure to practice, so it’s memorable for the right reasons.

by J.K. Whelehan