By Donna Cornelius
Most Thanksgiving feasts include so much food that even the pickiest eater can find something to love. That variety also is a boon for choosing wines.
“There are so many different flavors on the table, especially if you’re having a big meal,” said Scott Atkinson, the Mountain Brook Western Market’s wine director. “With wine, that’s a good thing. There’s something that will go with almost any wine, so you can have everybody’s favorites.”
Atkinson, who celebrated his ninth year with Western on Oct. 31 and who has been in the wine business since 1996, said Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday. His uncle, Ben Johnson of Vestavia Hills, is hosting the family’s get-together this year.
“One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories is being at my uncle’s house and doing dishes with my brother until the hot water ran out,” Atkinson said.
If you’re not sure what kinds of wines to buy for holiday meals – or to take if you’re a guest – there’s a simple rule.
“The most important thing is to drink what you like,” Atkinson said. “Have both reds and whites.”
Atkinson shared a few of his favorite wines for Thanksgiving and beyond, and so did another Birmingham wine guru, Scott Jones of Hoover. Jones, a former Southern Living executive editor, promotes his “no-snobbery wine education” through his company, Jones Is Thirsty. He’s a nationally known food and wine expert, author and chef.
Most of the wines on Atkinson’s list cost less than $20, and most on Jones’ list cost less than $15.
From Scott Atkinson:
Naveran Brut Vintage Cava: “This Spanish cava is a sparkling wine. You get a lot of the benefits of champagne, but it’s cheaper. You have a celebratory atmosphere during the holidays, and sparkling wine symbolizes this.”
2015 Brooks Gewürztraminer, Oak Ridge Vineyard: “This may seem like a strange option, but gewürztraminer can handle that weird mix of sweet and savory – when your cranberry sauce gets into your creamed spinach. I like its juxtaposition of sweet, spicy and herbal flavors.”
Cult Cabernet Sauvignon and Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay: “In the absence of any information about what people like to drink, these two are good choices to have at your table and to bring to gatherings. Those who may not drink a lot of wine tend to go for cab and chardonnay.”
2015 Marietta Zinfandel, Román Estate: “For larger crowds, add this wine, which plays well with almost everything on the table. It’s a blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Barbera. This winery is owned by third generation Italian immigrants.”
1997 Laurent-Perrier Brut Rose, Grand Siecle Alexandra champagne or, from the Rhône Valley of France, Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape: While the other picks are $20 or less, these wines are not inexpensive. But they are special treats and exciting to serve.
“Because Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday and the French did so much to help us win our independence, we try to have at least one French wine on the table,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson and Jerome Crawford, Mountain Brook Western Market wine consultant, and other members of the Western team are happy to offer recommendations and answer questions. You also can rent wineglasses at the store if you’re having a large party.
Western Market is located in Mountain Brook at 1000 Jemison Lane.
From Scott Jones:
Jones said the reds and whites he’s listed all cost less than $15; the Bedrock is about $35.
Luccarelli Primitivo, Puglia, Italy: “Zinfandel fans will love this rich red from the south of Italy. Primitivo is hearty enough to hold its own but is surprisingly soft, making it ideal with everything from a cheese platter to a stuffed pork or beef roast.”
Viña Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile: “Los Vascos is the Chilean outpost for the famed Domaines Barons de Rothschild, so there’s real winemaking muscle in the bottle.”
Gérard Bertand Réserve Spéciale Chardonnay, Languedoc, France: “This off-the-beaten path chardonnay is much more like its crisp yet rich Burgundian cousins than the big, oaky styles often found in the Napa Valley. Much more food-friendly from appetizer to final course.”
Pazo Cillerio Albariño, Spain: “This lip-smacking, medium-bodied Spanish gem is perfect alongside everything from crab cakes to oyster dressing.”
Bedrock Wine Co. North Coast Syrah, Sonoma, Calif.: “In the tradition of a Rhône red, this hefty wine brings the spice and dark cherry flavors. Cozies up to smoked brisket or grilled lamb chops. Definitely worth the splurge.”
For more information on wines, and Jones’ tasting sessions, visit www.jonesisthirsty.com.