IT’S the absolute last minute. All your Thanksgiving preparations are in order. Almost. “Oh no! I knew I forgot something … the wine!”
Beaujolais-Villages makes for a quick, easy solution for a wine shortage.
No, you are not alone. You may have ignored or overlooked the dutifully creative suggestions for Thanksgiving bottles dispensed by wine writers countrywide last week, but I will not wag an admonishing finger. Now is the time for action, not recriminations. So here are quick, easy solutions to last-minute beverage problems.
IT’S TOO LATE TO TRACK DOWN IDEAL BOTTLES. WHAT CAN I GET THAT’S EASY TO FIND AND CHEAP?
When in doubt, think Beaujolais. This is true even in those uncivilized corners of the earth that don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s a versatile, juicy, joyous red that will go with almost anything. Ordinarily, I gravitate toward the best small producers, like Jean-Paul Brun, Pierre-Marie Chermette, Marcel Lapierre, Jean Foillard, Daniel Bouland and Julien Sunier, just to name a few. But now is not the time for a search.
Instead, Beaujolais-Villages wines from larger-scale négociants like Louis Jadot and Joseph Drouhin should be as easy to find now as pilgrim hats and turkey basters, whether you’re shopping at suburban supermarkets or your local bodega wine shop. Wines from the very good 2010 vintage are fresh and energetic. Best of all, they’ll only set you back around $10 a bottle.
THIS IS AN AMERICAN HOLIDAY. WHERE’S YOUR PATRIOTISM?
No need to bring politics into it. You want American? I got American. Year after year, Marietta Cellars makes Old-Vine Red, a blend both of vintages and grapes, like the old-timers in California used to do it. These wines are labeled by lot numbers rather than vintage years. The last two, 57 and 58, are bright and spicy, usually cost no more than $12 a bottle and are widely available.
THERE YOU GO TALKING ONLY ABOUT REDS AGAIN. HOW ABOUT AN AMERICAN WHITE?
My standby is the $15 Finger Lakes riesling from Ravines. This is a great wine, but alas not so readily available outside New York. Leo Steen chenin blanc from Dry Creek Valley in California is another great $15 bottle, likewise not in every shop. Frankly, the mass-market American white-wine pool under $15 is tough going. Here’s a thought: Oregon pinot gris, particularly recent vintages from King Estate, a large producer that makes dry, energetic and reasonably priced wines, generally $12 to $15 a bottle.
If you want a white, how about a Muscadet? Like barberas, these tangy whites are lively and versatile enough to go with anything you might hazard to place on the Thanksgiving table. In his new book, “Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well,” my colleague Sam Sifton recommends against serving filling preliminary dishes, with one appetizing exception: oysters. If you eat them with Muscadet, you will be in heaven. Look for entry-level bottles from excellent producers like Domaine de la Pépière, Luneau-Papin or André-Michel Brégeon, which should run $15 or less. Better yet, see if you can find a few magnums for impressive effect.
ENOUGH ALREADY! I JUST WANT TO HAVE BUBBLY.
Well, why not? Sparkling wines are superb partners for a huge range of foods. I know I’m going to start my Thanksgiving with Champagne, and I wouldn’t hesitate to stick with it throughout the meal. But you’re not going to find good Champagne these days for less than $35 or so. No worries, though, plenty of inexpensive alternatives exist, and you can confidently buy American if you choose.
CAN’T BEAR TO THINK ABOUT THANKSGIVING ANYMORE. WHAT DO I DRINK AFTERWARD?
Try a beer. Or a hot toddy. But if you really need a pick-me-up, remember the words Fernet Branca. It’s an Italian Digestive, a distinctively bitter blend of many herbs that, in my experience, restores that sense of equilibrium when you’ve had about all you can take. You’ll thank me, and your stomach will thank me.