Wishful Thinking: Versatile Wines For Thanksgiving. Enter Italy.

Food & Drink

All your Thanksgiving wishes come true when you choose wines from Italy!

For much of the week, La Cucina Italiana, the venerable cooking magazine (now online), has been posting Thanksgiving recipes with an Italian theme. (No, not turkey tetrazzini).

Bel tentativo (“nice try”), but I think this overlay doesn’t work for Americans who wait all year for turkey and the trimmings—and most people hold firm to their Thanksgiving food traditions, says a Washington Post food editor. Indeed, in my childhood home, each of us had a special dish that was guaranteed to make an appearance at the table (turnips for me), and in the years I’ve spent Thanksgiving elsewhere, I found this holds true with other families.

But where I do find flexibility (and, in truth, a lack of imagination) is in the wines suitable for this American feast. We’re iven such possibilities—flavors and textures from sweet to sour, earthy to savory—but I fear we’ve fallen into a pattern of predictable, serviceable wines that, as my mother (she of the sweet and sour red cabbage) would say, “show up for work but don’t the job.”

Enter Italy, the workaholic, consummate liquid diplomat and problem solver.

“The charm of Italian wines in general is that they are so versatile with food, and as easy-to-like wines, they add to the enjoyment of a Thanksgiving meal, rather than try to steal the show,” said Mark Fornatale Italian portfolio manager at Skurnik Wines & Spirits, a New York based importer. Company president Harmon Skurnik says with “good, bracing acidity and a minimum of oak, Italian wines are a perfect foil for Thanksgiving dinner and all the fixings.”

MORE FOR YOU

I know, I know … some of you will still resist and reach for your American wines for this most American of holidays, but if you’re tempted to concede and reach across the [socially distanced] aisle, here are some wines that will make Thanksgiving drinking great (again). Just wear your mask when you’re not eating or drinking.

SOUTH

In general, wines from the south, reflecting their rugged landscapes, will pack power and structure with mineral/acid streaks, but the fleshier, ripe fruits take off that edge and round out in the palate. 

Feudi San Gregorio 2018 Fiano Avellino DOCG. A pale lemony yellow, its smoky nose yields to lemon curd and white flowers. Terrific mouth-filling texture and finishing with a cooked Meyer lemon compote richness. Good with smashed sweet potatoes. $27

Benito Ferrara Terre d’Uva 2018 Greco di Tufo DOCG. Very pretty white-floral aromatics followed by apple, pear and juicy white nectarine. Round and textured with a lively mineral backbone. $27

Clelia Romano Greco di Tufo “Alexandros” 2018. The famed Fiano de Avellino producer turned to Greco about a decade ago, says Skurnik, creating a “beautifully balanced wines” from high-altitude grapes in Campania. Racy acid is balanced by ripe yellow apples. A powerful and almost opulent wine spiked with anise, and wild botanicals. *taster’s choice $27

Kadas “Duca de Salaparuta 1824” 2019 Terre Sicilia IGT Grillo. This has a southern Burgundian character that belies its island origins. Grillo is an unsung hero and this is a terrific example with yellow and golden apple, and stone-fruit flavors. Round and fleshy with hazelnut notes. *taster’s choice. $18

CENTRAL to NORTHWEST

Fattoria de Fiorano Appia Antica 400 2018 Lazio Bianco IGT. This gets my vote for the most unexpected wine in the batch. A blend of 80% Semillon and 20% Malvasia from vines planted in 1940, it smells and tastes like an ancient noble wine. Light honey colored. The fruit plays the understudy in this savory, wild wine with herbal and menthol tones, wild, bitter almond. Great with creamed dishes. Very textured, super interesting and exciting. Comes from a tiny estate just outside the Rome city limits. *taster’s choice. $20 

Aia Vecchia Toscana 2019 Vermentino. This is a little light for turkey and the trimming, but it’s a nice accompaniment to green vegetables, like maybe that green bean casserole y’all eat in the south. Silver white in color, with a pleasant lemon curd and lees-y dairy quality, it’s savory and elevated by menthol/spearmint and a bit of lime zest. $14+/-

Cavallotto Castiglione Falleto Chardonnay Bricco Boschis, Langhe. I am a stickler about a few things, Chardonnay being one of them; I like mine from France. But this northern Italian Chardonnay competed for my heart and won. Clear, unmuddled apple and pear flavors, round and juicy, a lemon twist, a slight bitter almond note on the finish. Unoaked and fresh, Skurnik recommends this for turkey. Mucho mucho amor! *taster’s choice $28

NORTHEAST

Attems 2018, Fruili DOC Pinot Grigio. A PG to change your mind! Clean saline freshness, with white flowers, apple and pear. Not the usual vacuous PG splash, this one is round, laced with lemon and lime zest, pretty white blossoms. Great apertif-to-turkey wine. *taster’s choice $18

Gini “La Frosca” 2016 Soave Classico DOC. “The tops of the pops,” says Skurnik, of this producer hailing from the heart of the Soave region. The historic “La Frosca” vineyard with its 90-year-old vines yielded this pale gold wine with quince, tart yellow plum balances with ripe yellow apple. Good smoky mineral quality, a little saline, Loire Chenin lovers will like the waxy texture. $30

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