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Seeing pink on Thanksgiving Day is usually not good news. Usually, that means that the turkey is undercooked, and it’s time to order pizza. Pink in the wine glass, however, is an entirely different matter. Dry rosé wine is exactly what works best with the bird, and with many of the vast array of side dishes that stretch across the holiday dining-room table.
Rosé wines already have a firm grip on Memphis in the summertime. In my opinion, the only two reasons our collective grip on sanity can be maintained during the gruesome months when the flames of hell are engulfing us are (a) air conditioning and (2) dry rosé. And while it’s safe to say that most of us are officially over the stigma of pink wine, we still seem to be adamant about pigeonholing it as a “summer-only” beverage. This is a terrible shame, especially when considering just how well rosé wines pair with the way we eat now. We drink white wine year-round, so why not dry rosés?
Thanksgiving offers a near-perfect opportunity to showcase the food-pairing capabilities of delicious pink wines. Turkey itself is something like a true blank slate, making it a relatively simple main course up against which wines can be matched. It’s everything else on the table that can wreak havoc on a wine.
Don’t despair, says Elizabeth Mall, certified specialist of wine with Delta Wholesale Group. “The vegetables that are so abundant in the fall are quite earthy and really work well with rosé,” describing a successful dish at her Thanksgiving table last year. “I roasted one acorn squash with a parmesan, walnut, and cranberry stuffing, and another squash with a parmesan and sausage stuffing, pairing both with Zardetto Rosé Prosecco (Conegliano, Italy). It was a real hit!”
The holidays are a celebratory time, so why not bring out the bubbly? “I love the red-berry fruit in the Zardetto, and the bubbles keep everything fresh and not too heavy,” Mall continues. “The rosé sparkling is lovely with the sweetness of the roasted squash and cranberries and the earthiness of the cheese and walnuts.”
Chefs, of course, view holiday tables in unique and different ways than most people. “The versatility of both the traditional and the contemporary Thanksgiving table really does lend itself to a rosé,” explains Kelly English. The Restaurant Iris chef/owner is effusive when it comes to the bounty of holiday meals. “On the table there may be turkey (roasted and fried) breasts, thighs, drumsticks. Alongside that may be oyster dressing, cranberry sauce, rich starches, sweet potatoes and rich gizzard gravy, to name a few from my family.” Finding a wine that can pair up and not be overwhelmed by such an overflowing bounty such as this would seemingly be impossible.
No, red zinfandel is not always the way to go. Yes, it’s quintessentially American, but that shouldn’t be the deciding factor when buying wine for Thanksgiving. “When you consider the gamut of textures and flavors that pass your palate on that day, a fine rosé is an almost counterintuitive choice,” says English. “It bridges the gap and connects all the dots. I like to reach for a grenache rosé; maybe that’s my French grandfather coming out in me, but it just makes sense for what we are eating.”
French rosés do offer a lot of acidity that helps cut through the richness of such things as giblet gravy and fried turkey, but these are wines that don’t overwhelm the milder roast turkey. The French offerings can even match up well with bright fresh salads and greens.
“A racy way to enjoy your holiday is with Paul Jaboulet Côtes du Rhone Rosé,” explains Tiffany Werne, southeast regional manager with Frederick Wildman & Sons Imports. “This grenache, cinsault, and syrah blend is pure and fresh with hints of strawberry and cranberry on the palate followed by a bright, balanced acidity. These factors come together to pair perfectly with Thanksgiving dishes. This rosé is a fine example of what the Côtes du Rhone has to offer, made in an exquisite style that you don’t want to miss.”
Wines from Oregon are generally very delicious and make for excellent matches with a variety of different dishes. But it’s Oregon rosés that surprise and elate, and even catch most wine drinkers off guard. Rosés composed of pinot noir are very capable of holding that true pinot fruit intact. Those notes of fruit remain but are just expressed differently.
Instead of the deep red-cherry fruit of a traditional red pinot noir, a rosé, such as Lachini Vineyards Rosé (Willamette Valley, Oregon), for example, might express white or Rainier cherry. Like the great rosé wines of southern France, Oregon rosé tends to be set apart from the rest of the world’s offerings by its superb structure and balance. That bright, zippy, vibrant acidity can cut through a crispy fried turkey or that succulent roast ham, and yet still stand up to that rich green-bean casserole. The berry fruit even holds it own against the various forms of cranberry sauce.
Rosé wines, then, are not just an excuse for a getaway from that sweltering, oppressive summer heat. Yes, indeed, rosé offers an excellent opportunity to quench your thirst during that most difficult time of the Memphis year. But it should never be put into hibernation for the winter months.
So this Thanksgiving, unleash a gorgeous rosé wine during dinner, and pour it right alongside the turkey and dressing. Everyone at the table will be thankful you did it.