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A Winemaker's Journal


By Elias Fernandez

For anyone into food and wine pairing, the Thanksgiving table provides an annual challenge. The tangle of flavors can run the gamut from subtle Turkey breast made savory or even spicy depending on accompanying stuffing and sauces to tangy cranberry to sharp, salty flavors in cheeses to buttery mashed potatoes.

On top of that Thanksgiving dinner is becoming more international incorporating once-exotic ingredients such as yucca, plantains, ceviche and other delicious ideas from south of the border.

Finding a wine to successfully pair with such a table is a puzzler. Most often I see family chefs trying out various bottlings of Beaujolais or Pinot Noir, which can be good, solid choices. A year ago in this column, I made the case for creating a dinner that paired with different styles of Champagne.

This time, ‘tis the season to crack open a bottle or two of Rosè. And by Rosè while I do mean pink wine, I don’t mean anything sweet and syrupy. A dry Rosè will be crisp, complex and fruity, light enough to pair with the traffic jam of flavors on your table, but offering enough presence to make it a memorable dinner companion.

Of course being the world of wine, nothing is simple. You won’t find information on wine labels to gauge Rosè’s dryness or sweetness. A little pre-holiday reconnaissance is required.

Southern France is a good place to start. On French wine labels look for appellations such as Tavel, Lirac, Bandol or Provence. In these warmer, more Mediterranean-influenced areas, Rosè evolved long ago as a wine for summer days that still offered some color and a whisper of tannins.

Grapes used include names such as Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsaut, Bourboulenc, Syrah, Clairette, Blanche Piquepoul, Carignan, and Calitor.

In the U.S. Rosè is made from an array of red grapes including Syrah, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.

No matter where you look, Rosè is made in several different ways. Most often red grapes are harvested, crushed and put into tall fermentation tanks. Here the juice spends just a few hours picking up color and flavor from the skins and seeds before it is drained out the bottom of the tank. Afterward the pink-tinted juice is fermented like a white wine.

A couple variant methods include simply blending finished red wine with finished white wine or putting whole clusters of red and white grapes into tanks and letting gravity take over – juice pours out the bottom of the tank thanks to the weight of the grapes on top crushing the fruit below.

Besides being a stellar accompaniment to your holiday cuisine, Rosè is a excellent choice because it’s not going to make a dent in your wallet. Many beautiful Rosè are available in the $10 to $20 price range.

The other reason I like Rosè is that it a pleasurable wine that is, what I call, baggage-free. No one at your table will feel the need to “understand” the wine. It inspires fun not pretension. That’s something to be thankful for.