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Thanksgiving & Autumnal Wines for Food

By Julia Jenkins, 19th November 2016

Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness, autumn with it’s shorter days and glorious leaf colours is here and with it we turn to more robust flavoured food which in turn demand more robust wines. Casseroles, winter roast vegetables, notably root vegetables and mashed potatoes with comfort puddings such as crumbles and fruit pies to finish……. menus including these dishes are often found in Thanksgiving menus.

Thanksgiving Day is this Thursday 24th November; it is held on the 4th Thursday in November and is a tradition in the United States since 1863 when during the Civil War President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated.

The first Thanksgiving Feast lasted 3 days and provided food for thirteen pilgrims and ninety Native Americans and included fish, shellfish, wild fowl, venison, berries, fruit and vegetables.  The classic menu for Thanksgiving in current times includes starters such as butternut squash soup or salad, to starter with followed by a turkey with a full flavoured stuffing and gravy with side dishes including green bean casserole, spicy sprouts, sweet potato bake and macaroni cheese.  The favourite desserts are pecan pie and pumpkin bread pudding.

Initially, trying to find wines to complement the mélange of flavours in these dishes can seem to be quite a challenge but the key to finding a good food and wine match is identifying the key ingredient and how it’s cooked.

To accompany butternut squash soup or other root vegetables such as parsnips, carrots etc a rounded textured white wine such the Rustenberg Chardonnay which has a lovely mouthfilling soft texture with tropical fruit and vanilla flavours.  Other wines in this category are some lightly oaked Southern Hemisphere Chardonnays such as the Te Mata Estate Chardonnay from Hawkes Bay in New Zealand or the Chateau St Michelle Pinot Gris from Washington State is another great match.

The main course is full of different flavours and though turkey is the main element the strongest flavours will come from the herbs and spices used to flavour the side dishes and the sauces where the cranberry fruits for example provide extra flavour dimensions that need to be considered. Often the best solution in such a situation is to start with your favourite style of red or white wine and consider if that or something similar will complement the flavours. If you like claret this will stand up in strength of flavour but not style because of the obvious tannins whereas a Californian Cabernet such as that from Hahn Estates or the Cycles Gladiator Syrah with its rounder softer ripe fruit notes will be a kinder match. Some of the ripe fruity California Zinfandels with briary damson notes such as that from Delicato or Dry Creek are also worth trying. White wines need to be big wines to match all the main course flavours so try a Californian Chardonnay such as that Hahn Estates in Monterey or a fabulous mouthfilling Limoux Chardonnay with soft rich ripe fruits.

For dessert the luscious richness of pecan pie or pumpkin pie can overwhelm a light elegant sweet wine so go for something enough complexity and richness to match it. This can be found in a botrytis Semillon such as the Deen de Bortoli Vat 5 or its big brother Noble One from Australia, the Yalumba Museum Muscat or an Oloroso sherry such as the Gonzalez Byass Solera 1847 or the Matusalem Oloroso Dulce.

The Thanksgiving menu is only one example including autumnal, winter recipes and they lend themselves to much experimenting with different wines to accompany them. Why not try a few different ones and add to your list of wines…….

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