Wine fascinates because it tastes of so much more than grapes. Sauvignon Blanc is citrusy; Viognier smells of honeysuckle; Italian Barolo evokes the aroma of tar. Wine lovers embrace these analogues, and sommeliers use them as a key device to pair wine with food.
One pairing strategy is to match similar flavors. While I’m hard pressed to find a wine that tastes of turkey, I can recommend several that mimic the tastes of the fixins’. Come dinner time, take hearty gulps to add another octave to your Thanksgiving flavors. The following are some of my favorites. If you can’t find the specific bottle, ask your favorite wine salesperson for wines with similar flavors.
Müller Catoir Scheurebe Spätlese, Pfalz, Germany, 2004, $40
Scheurebe is a crossing of Riesling and Sylvaner and tastes like Riesling’s naughty sister. Müller Catoir produces Germany’s greatest Scheurebe: full of cassis, wisteria and sage, all framed by sweet, lemony fruit and spicy acidity.
Girard Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, 2007, $20
Chardonnay grown in cooler climates and minimally vinified can suggest the crisp flavors of apples. Girard crafts a style that’s both soft with fresh acidity, a useful contrast to the rich food at Thanksgiving.
Cranberry: Pinot Noir
Willakenzie Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2006, $25
Pinot Noirs grown in cool climates often show the tart intensity of cranberries. This Burgundian-styled Pinot also shows a forest floor component, which will sing with the mushrooms in your stuffing.
Cinnamon: Oaky Zinfandel
Van Ruiten “Old Vine” Zinfandel, Lodi, California, 2007, $20
The flavor of cinnamon arises not from grapes, but from oak. Smoky with robust berry fruit and an ample, peppery finish.
Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.