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Turkey Meets Its Match

By Debra Meiburg MW

Teetering cans of cranberries, puffed bags of stuffing and bushels of knobby yams at the supermarkets announce this Thursday is the American holiday, Thanksgiving. Affectionately known as T-Day or Turkey Day in the States, more wine is sold for Thanksgiving dinner than any other meal of the year.

This is not to be confused with the Turkey Day festivities of Worthington, Minnesota and Cuero, Texas. Vying to be turkey capital of the world, these two cities stage a series of turkey races in October, just days before national elections. That can’t be a coincidence. As many as 20,000 turkeys strut through the main streets of these towns prior to the big race. One might expect George W’s home-state to forward the fleetest footed turkeys, but Minnesota has won eighteen national titles and Texas only fifteen.

The winner of the great gobbler gallop is awarded a subtle four-foot trophy, “The Traveling Turkey Trophy of Tumultuous Triumph” as well as the resplendent title, the “World’s Fastest Turkey.” More importantly – to the turkey – the winner is pardoned by the President of the United States on Thanksgiving. The loser wins the “Circulating Consolation Cup of Consummate Commiseration.” Let’s hope it’s filled with wine.

The rest of the turkeys fare less well, having been stuffed, bound and roasted to be gobbled up by the multitude of Thanksgiving Day fans around the world who have adopted this holiday tradition each fourth Thursday in November – except the Canadians, who celebrate their day of thanks a few weeks earlier, dismissing the American festivities as Yanksgiving.

When the Mayflower Pilgrims organized America’s first Thanksgiving feast, there was little discussion about wine selection. They served a dubious brew fermented from indigenous grapes of the labrusca species, their barrels of European wine long depleted. For today’s Thanksgiving table, with its rich yams, buttery mashed potatoes, tart cranberry relishes and exotic dressings, choosing the best wine can be as fiddly as the turkey trot – a dance once banned by the Vatican in the 1900’s for its “disorderly conduct.” The cacophony on the Thanksgiving table overrides subtle wines, so don’t spend a lot. Reserve your Chateau Lafite for another occasion. Instead, load the table with interesting, but inexpensive wines. After all, the pilgrims were known for their frugality. Open all the bottles at once and serve them family-style, letting your guests select at their leisure – they will be thankful.

If the formality of your dinner demands careful wine matching, then the secret is focus. Other than the turkey, what is the most important dish or flavor on the table? Is it meaty, fruity, herbal or spicy? Focus on this key flavor when discussing wine selection with your merchant.

Given turkey’s dual nature – both light and dark meat – white or red wines can be served. If deciding between the two is an issue, then opt for a bright fruity rosé. Wines from California or Oregon are an obvious choice for this most American of holiday, but when it comes to pink wines, there’s no rosé more suitable – in spite of its Australian pedigree – than Barossa Valley’s Turkey Flat Rosé. If after stuffing the turkey, organizing your family and ordering pumpkin pie you run out of time to buy wine, follow the example of the American forefathers — serve whatever is on hand. It’s bound to go with something on the table.

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