wine guy wednesday
Editor's note: Long before Chris Shepherd became a James Beard Award-winning chef, he developed enough of a passion for wine to work at Brennan's of Houston as a sommelier. He maintains that interest to this day. When Chris expressed interest in writing about wine-related topics for CultureMap, we said yes.
In this week's column, he offers suggestions for what to pair with your Thanksgiving meal, whether you're serving turkey or burgers. Take it away, Chris.
It’s Thanksgiving time. And, no, it’s still not Cab season. Sorry, folks. So what you should you open on this beautiful family holiday? Let’s all give thanks to chilled red wines.
Yes, it’s okay to pull it right out of the cooler. It goes well with everything you’ll be eating onThanksgiving. Let’s talk Lambrusco, Beaujolais, Cerasuolo. Think of it like stepping up your rosé game.
A few years ago, everyone was saying to drink rosé with Thanksgiving. They’re not wrong, but it’s time to add some backbone.
Let’s talk about five different wines you should be drinking this year. Important note: when you’re looking for wines that are coming from outside the U.S., you want to pay attention to the importer. Look for importers that carry wines you truly love. If you like a wine, look to see who imports it, and then look to see what else they’re importing. It’s often an indicator of quality and style. So I’ll be sharing the importer in addition to the producer with theseThanksgiving wines.
Tiberio Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo. Do not show up at your family’s house with just one bottle. You’ll need three to four minimum. Coming in at around $20 retail, it’s technically a rosé but with more structure. This is a wine you can start with and finish with. It keeps the party going.
It’s imported by The Sorting Table, which carries other wines of awesomeness like Dumaine Dujac.
Let’s go into Beaujolais. The next few wines are made with Gamay grapes. We know it as Beaujolais, but Beaujolais has gotten a bad rap.
Beaujolais Nouveau is a red wine made from Gamay grapes produced in the Beaujolais region of France. It’s fermented for just a few weeks before being released for sale on the third Thursday of November. Distributors famously race to get the first bottles to different markets around the globe.
The wine is made using carbonic maceration, whole berry anaerobic fermentation, which emphasizes fruit flavors without extracting bitter tannins from the grape skins. Grapes are loaded and sealed into a large container that is filled with carbon dioxide. Grapes that are gently crushed at the bottom of the container by the weight of the grapes start to ferment, emitting more CO2. All this carbon dioxide causes fermentation to take place inside the uncrushed grapes (without access to oxygen, hence "anaerobic fermentation"). The resulting wine is fresh, fruity, and very low in tannins — a guzzler that lacks finesse.
But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I want you to try some of the best producers of Gamay in the Beaujolais region.
Bonnet Cotton Côte de Brouilly “Le Grillés.” These wines are juicy and fun to drink. They have structure, they have depth, they have funk. Forget the cranberry sauce, and just drink this. This is imported by Paris Wine Company, which imports some of my favorite wines — fresh, clean, and leaning toward the natural side. They’re finding smaller producers who do cool things and bringing them here.
Now, let’s move on to the Gang of Four. These producers fought to change the way people think about Beaujolais. Marcel Lapierre, Jean Foillard, Guy Breton, and Jean-Paul Thévenet all champion organic farming, hand-harvesting ripe fruit, and a winemaking philosophy of “nothing added, nothing taken away.”
This is not your grandparents’ Beaujolais. It’s the evolution of what Beaujolais should be — earth, structure, and finesse. A really amazing food wine, whether you’re eating ham, turkey, or cold fried chicken. I’d even say to buck the Thanksgiving tradition of turkey since you’ll probably have a hard time getting one, and make some burgers.
If you want to be the winner of the holiday, look for these wines in magnums. Morgon from Jean Foillard is a favorite of mine, and it definitely comes in magnum. I’ll be drinking a magnum of Morgon on Thanksgiving this year, gifted to me by the crew at Birdie’s in Austin. Buy one, bring one, give one to your friend.
Kermit Lynch imports the Gang of Four. Kermit Lynch started as a wine shop in Berkeley and became an importer. They import some of the greatest wines from Italy and France — names like Domaine Tempier, Champagne Paul Bara … you get the idea. These people know what they’re doing.
If you have a Christmas Vacation moment this Thanksgiving, don’t worry. You probably didn’t let your turkey rest.
Side note: if your turkey has an internal thermometer, it’s set to pop above 175 degrees.Technically, by health code standards, 165 is fully cooked, which means you pull your turkey out at 160. Let it rest. It will continue to cook and stay moist and delicious. I encourage you to email me with all of your turkey questions. I’ll respond to your email, but I’ll also go live on Instagram answering all of your questions on Sunday, November 20.
We have a saying. “You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.” But we do have a solution: Lini 910 Lambrusco dell’Emilia. It’s not a sweet style of Lambrusco, but it will help with juiciness. If the moment comes and you didn’t follow my directions, and your turkey is dry when you carve into it, just pour this. It’s imported by Winebow, a good importer of Italian wines.
Chillable reds all the time, especially in Houston. As I write this, it’s 80 degrees in November. Go ‘Stros. Happy Thanksgiving.
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Chris Shepherd won a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2014. He recently parted ways with Underbelly Hospitality, a restaurant group that currently operates four Houston restaurants: Wild Oats, GJ Tavern, Underbelly Burger, and Georgia James. The Southern Smoke Foundation, a non-profit he co-founded with his wife Lindsey Brown, has distributed more than $10 million to hospitality workers in crisis through its Emergency Relief Fund.