It’s that time of year again when everyone is giving thanks. Well except for turkeys, of course. What wine to pair with the bird, or ham comes with a wide range of choices. This review attempts to narrow the field to manageable choices. There are a number of factors to consider before clutching the right bottle of wine from the shelf. Assuming turkey is the main ingredient of the feast, which wines pair best?
How the bird is prepared and the side dishes provide the first clue. A roasted turkey with traditional stuffing, candied yams and cranberry sauce will have a different flavor profile than a bird that is smoked and surrounded with root vegetables. The wine whether white or red, or both, should have good acidity and not be overly tannic or high in alcohol.
For example, an over-extracted Shiraz might easily have too much tannin because of the length of time the juice was on the skins. The wine will also have jammy fruit flavors that can overpower the delicate taste of white meat and combat with the yams for supremacy. Red wines of medium body, mild tannins and red and black berry flavors will work much better. Sangiovese, Tempranillo and the Rhone grapes Mourvèdre and Grenache have less aggressive tannins and bright berry flavors.
As it happens, many New Mexico wines use these grapes. Casa Abril makes very good Tempranillo wines, including a nicely balanced Rosé. Their Malbec wines have earthy notes and spice that compliment many holiday feasts. Black Mesa in the Embudo Valley of Northern New Mexico offers Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Montepulciano and Dolcetto Spanish and Italian grape wines. All crafted to emphasize the fruit and well-integrated tannins.
Vivac Winery, which is also in the Embudo Valley, specialize in Italian varietals including Barbera, Sangiovese, Dolcetto and Refosco a very unusual grape from the Friuli region of Italy above Venice. The Refosco would pair well with a smoked bird, or one done in a spicy Southwestern style with Chiles, even with its tannic weight.
La Chiripada; the third winery in the Embudo Valley, and the oldest, also has a fine Dolcetto. The popular 2009 Rio Embudo Red done in a fruity Beaujolais-style should pair well with turkey. The 2009 Rio Embudo Reserve Selection adds Montepulciano and Petite Sirah for a bigger richer wine. The 2009 Vintners Reserve Red is made from Tempranillo and Ruby Cabernet and also has holiday wine stamped all over it.
Both Black Mesa and Vivac also make a dry Rosé from the Dolcetto grape. These wines possess bright red fruit flavors without the tannins and can be a happy compromise for white and red wine lovers. While giving thanks this month, also thank our local winemakers by having a bottle of New Mexico wine alongside the turkey.