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11.23.2009

Thanksgiving: No Wine is Too Good for Friends

OK wine lovers, listen up. Thanksgiving approaches, and in this country that means for the past few weeks every wine columnist in the world has been talking about what wines go with the big dinner. Well you're not going to get that from me, for reasons previously stated.

But I do want to talk about the whole affair of serving wine with the Thanksgiving feast. More specifically, I want to talk about the usually treacherous emotional landscape of choosing which wines to serve to your guests.

I woke up this morning to find that my friend Lettie Teague had kindly covered one half of the conundrum of wine for the holidays: figuring out what wine to bring to someone else's house for dinner.

But I want to talk about the other side of the equation: choosing which wines you want to open and serve to the family and friends that may be eating at your house. And I'm not talking about what grape varieties you think will go with Aunt Maud's special orange and cucumber aspic.

I'm talking about figuring out whether your guests are worth opening some of your really good shit.

Yes, you know what I'm talking about. That inner monologue you have with yourself, or perhaps that conspiring monologue you have with your partner that goes something like, "Well I could open that bottle, but no one is really going to appreciate it. Uncle Bob is just going to pour himself an entire pint of it and gulp it down with his salad."

In short, the holidays always bring up the wine lover's fear of casting pearls before swine. We cherish the wines we have collected, especially those that we think are really good. And the last thing we want is for them to not be appreciated.

Actually the last thing we want is to open them for our guests and have them drunk so quickly by a lot of people who don't appreciate them that we don't even get a chance to taste them ourselves.

Well, I'm taking a stand to say that we need to just get over it. We gotta open the damn bottles and pour fabulous wine down the gullets of the people we care for even if they can't tell the difference between our 1999 F. Cotat Monts Damnés Sancerre and a $5 bottle of YellowTail.

Why? Because it's Thanksgiving, because we love our families and friends (yes, even annoying Uncle Bob), because good wine is meant to be shared, and because we need to break the obsessive compulsive cycle of waiting to open those good bottles on the "right occasion."

Now I'm not saying that if you've got one, or even three truly treasured bottles that Thanksgiving is the time to break out your ultimate, best wines. Frankly, it's definitely not. Don't bust open the best of the best unless you and your guests will really get to savor them in the way that great wines (or greatly valued wines -- only you get to judge) should be.

But I am suggesting that we need to check our tendency to avoid opening good wine in the face of the hustle, bustle, and smorgasbord of the Thanksgiving feast. If you can afford it, and I mean that in every possible way, financial and otherwise, it can be a great joy to watch people you love consume really good wine, even unknowingly. I have wonderful memories of watching the faces of some folks (whose wine preferences can usually be described using a single color) light up as they taste a really nice wine while others at the end of the table pour Sprite into theirs.

Yes, it's a matter of faith, and you have to take the bad with the good. There will be some people who definitely won't appreciate your wine. But if there are just a few that stop in their tracks and want to know "What they hell that was that they just drank because it was really fuckin' good, then you're making the world a better place.

And yes, even if you have to sit in the corner and watch everyone drink a great bottle out of their paper cups while forking green beans and stuffing and gravy and cranberry relish into their mouths in a single bite, it's worth it to know that they're drinking good stuff instead of swill, and that it's your fault.

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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.