Choosing a beverage to pair with the Thanksgiving turkey is as important as deciding what ingredients should go into the stuffing.
But rather than stressing about how to make just the right wine pairing, Natalie MacLean, a James Beard award-winning author of Red, White and Drunk All Over, suggests taking a deep breath and relaxing.
With a glass of wine, of course.
The Canadian wine expert is the engine driving one of the most popular, comprehensive, all-things-wine Web sites out there, nataliemaclean.com, launched in 2000.
More than 80,000 Web-surfers subscribe to the Nat Decants e-newsletter, and her Web site is visited by more than 1.3 million unique visitors a year.
“I think wine lovers are a natural fit with the Internet because wine is an info-intensive purchase that you usually can’t try before you buy the way you can with a car or a dress,” says MacLean.
“So many people seek a critic’s advice/shopping list. They want to know how it tastes, its body and food matches.”
MacLean offers weekly wine-tasting columns, recipes, food and wine pairing guides, lists of books and movies that wine geeks would enjoy, and podcasts, including one dedicated to Thanksgiving food and wine pairings.
“Thanksgiving can seem overwhelming, so just drink what you like,” she says. “If it doesn’t work out, don’t get caught up in finding the perfect wine match.”
But MacLean offers these straightforward rules to help simplify the process. (And remember that there are some rules to follow and some rules meant to be broken.)
•Pour some champagne. “It is one of the most food-friendly wines on the planet,” MacLean says. “It adds a festive note, so start the meal with a toast to friends, family and good health.”
She suggests a nonvintage Champagne, such as French Veuve Clicquot, Champagne Louis Roederer or Bollinger or American sparklers like Domaine Carneros, Domaine Chandon or Roederer Estate Anderson Valley.
•Juicy wines can help moisten the turkey. Choose juicy, generous, fruit-forward wines, such as a Beaujolais or a Gamay. “You can make up for cooking mistakes with wine,” MacLean says.
•Don’t be afraid of sweetness. Look for ones with some level of sweetness, either from fruity sweetness from the grapes or from residual sugar. She loves German Rieslings, for example, with their mouthwatering acidity and floral and pear aromas. Rieslings can handle many traditional-and-sweet side dishes, such as sweet potatoes.
•Look for wines that are middle of the road. Look for modestly tannic wines and wines that are not too heavily oaked, especially if guests are a mix of novice and experienced drinkers. A California Zinfandel would be a good example.
•Don’t forget the Pinot Noir. MacLean recommends a classic turkey-pairing wine, New World Pinots from Oregon, California and New Zealand that tend to be more ebullient and fruity.