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11.21.2008

Stop The Thanksgiving Wine Recommendations!

I read a lot of wine writing. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot. And when I say read, I mean, well, I scan all the headlines, and I read a good portion of it. Magazines, newspapers, hundreds of blogs. It's overwhelming at times, and damned hard work. But I enjoy it.

Except for two particular times of year. The first is mid-summer, when everyone seems to be writing the exact same article about "Summer Sippers," white and pink wines that are as refreshing as they are delicious.

But ever so much more evil and mind-numbing than mid-summer fluff, are the wine columns that rain down like so many large flightless birds in the weeks preceding Thanksgiving. Around this time of year, if I see one more "What wine to drink with your turkey and stuffing" article, I think I'm going to puke.

Yes, I'm being dramatic. I certainly can't find fault with these wine writers all across the nation who churn out their well meaning lists year after year. Those who might not be inclined to write such boring articles are most certainly forced to do so by their editors, and if they are not, they are as likely to be entreated to do so by their readers.

The problem with crappy wine recommendation articles for Thanksgiving is not the wine writers, it's the wine drinkers who actually read them.

So listen up America. I'm proud of you -- those of you who have decided you want to drink wine with your Thanksgiving dinner. There's nothing better than enjoying wine amidst a celebration of food, family, and friends -- or whatever you choose to celebrate during this holiday. But you need to chill out about finding the right wine.

Why? Because there is no such thing.

Don't fall for all these wine writers who tell you that there is an art to pairing wine with Thanksgiving dinner. Don't believe all this talk about how difficult a meal it is to match with wine. It's all bullshit. Especially at Thanksgiving.

Most people's Thanksgiving meals, even the most modest of them, are a vast cornucopia of flavors so diverse, contrary, and strong, and people eat them in such different combinations at different times that the idea of finding "a" wine to match with the meal is a ridiculous proposition.

Yet it's amazing how people seem to believe that they need help picking a wine. Or at least that's what the tsunami of Thanksgiving wine recommendations would have you believe.

So I'm here to tell you that there are two simple choices when it comes to drinking wine at Thanksgiving. You can take one, or both approaches, and I guarantee that you will be just as happy as if you spent the time, energy, and money searching for "the perfect wines to pair with America's most diverse meal" or whatever all those articles suggest you need.

ONE: If you're having a bunch of people over, buy a few different whites, and a few different reds. It doesn't matter what kind. Yes, you read that right. Pick whatever. Whatever is in your price range, whatever looks good, stuff you haven't tried before, hell, whatever is closest to the cash register. Open them all, and let people choose which ones they want. Make sure one of the wines is something that YOU like to drink.

TWO: If you're going to be celebrating with people that you know and love, use the occasion to drink a really nice bottle of something that you've been saving for a "special occasion." The best pairing for wine is good company, and who cares if no one notices, or if Aunt Bertha insists on putting ice cubes in it? So what if cousin Andy takes a bite of candied yams, then a bite of collard greens, and polishes it off with a swig of Cabernet? And if the folks you're eating with have the knowledge or the palates to appreciate it, then so much the better.

That's it. Open a bunch of stuff, or drink something special or both. Life is too short to stress about drinking the right wine with the right food. There are no rules when it comes to food and wine pairing, no matter what anyone tells you. There are no perfect pairings for everyone, only perfect pairings for you.

So relax, experiment, but above all, enjoy your Thanksgiving and make sure it includes lots of wine.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.