Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thanksgiving Wines? Consider Sherry or Saké

Thanksgiving wine recommendations are ubiquitous at this time of year.  But too many of those articles simply promote the same old type of wines, year after year.  Even when they stretch the boundaries a little, they often don't stray too far.  Sometimes this is just a lack of imagination and sometimes it stems from the fact that many wine writers are not familiar with some of the less appreciated, but still worthy wines. 

So let me be one of the few to recommend Sherry and Saké for your Thanksgiving Day feast.  Both are versatile, available in a variety of styles, and will add a unique touch to the festivities.  Lots of people will have Pinot Noir and Riesling on Thaksgiving, but how many can say they had a Junmai Saké or Amontillado with their turkey?  These food friendly selections should appeal to your guests and give them something to talk about later.  It will make for a memorable holiday.

Rather than Champagne, Cava, Prosecco or such, why not toast with a Sparkling Saké?  It is usually low in alcohol, only 6%-8%, which is lower than most other sparkling wines.  It is commonly fruity and sweet, and is a hit at Saké tastings.  Most times it comes in small, 300ml bottles so you can even try it at low cost and not worry about excessive left over Saké.  Sometimes you buy inexpensive Champagne, few actually end up drinking it, and you so end up wasting much of a 750ml bottle. 

If you start off your dinner with some appetizers, like nuts, pickles, chips and other salty treats, consider a dry Saké, maybe a Junmai or Junmai Ginjo.  If you like a sweet-style Riesling for Thanksgiving, why not consider a sweet Saké instead?  A nice Honjozo, Junmai, or Junmai Ginjo, with a touch of sweetness, would be an excellent option.  Just remember that the Junmai will probably be a richer style, while the Honjozo and Ginjo will be lighter.  If you would prefer something a bit more earthy or gamey, then try a Kimoto or Yamahai style Saké, which are a couple of my favorites styles. And for a lighter, more delicate taste, go for a Daiginjo. For dessert, try a sweet Nigori or even a Koshu, an aged Saké, which may remind you of a Port.  You don't need tiny cups for any of these Sakés, just use a regular wine glass and enjoy.

Sherry is another versatile option.  A chilled Fino or Manzanilla sherry would be an excellent choice as an aperitif, especially if you serve some pre-dinner appetizers, such as cheese, nuts, chips and olives. These dry sherries will also go well with any fried appetizers you might serve.  These two can be found in half-bottles, and thus you have potentially less waste. 

Other dry sherries, including Amontillado, Palo Cortado and Oloroso, would all pair well with Thanksgiving turkey yet they don’t often receive recommendations. I think this is mainly because sweet sherry is most commonly drunk in the U.S. Not enough people appreciate the delicious flavors of these dry sherries, and how well they match with a wide variety of foods. Their flavors, commonly including tastes like nuts, caramel, vanilla, herbs, spice, and wood, which will often match well a turkey dinner.  I will be drinking dry sherry, possibly an Amontillado, this Thanksgiving. The sweet sherries are more appropriate for dessert.  A cream sherry can pair well with fruit desserts, such as pies, or try a sweet, syrupy Pedro Ximenez sherry with a chocolate dessert, or simply pour some over ice cream.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving, enjoying the company of family and friends. Be thankful for all that you have in your lives, knowing there are many less fortunate than you. Savor all of the delicious food and drink at your table.

Has anyone had Sherry or Saké at their previous Thanksgiving dinners, or are you planning to have some this Thanksgiving?