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Michael Knisley's Turkey Day Champagne Picks

Beth Ribblett

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What's better than Thanksgiving?  Thanksgiving with Champagne!
Champagne is one of the most versatile wines around when it comes to food pairings, which is great when you have such an array of flavors and textures on your holiday table.  You can find one that will work from start to finish (even as early as the Turkey Trot if you like to really get the party started early).  Or, choose a few and pair them with different parts of the meal.

 Looking for something bright to wake up the taste buds and stimulate the appetite?  Brut nature champagne, with no extra dosage (the sugar/wine mix that gives each champagne its final balance and dryness level), is bone dry but still full of great flavor.  They are excellent on their own or with some fresh seafood, simply prepared.  Starting the meal with some oysters, shrimp, or crab?  This is your wine.  The Louis Roederer "Starck 2009" Brut Nature is bottled sunshine.  This wine is 1/3 chardonnay, and 2/3 Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, from a very warm, ripe vintage.  All the grapes are from Cumières, one of the best sites in the Vallee de la Marne.  The floral aromas lead into a palate that is bursting with lemon and peach flavors, with a nutty, mineral, brisk finish.  It's so delicious on its own and will also pair with lighter dishes to start the meal.

Another great choice to either start out your celebration on its own or to balance out the richer dishes is an all-chardonnay Blanc de Blancs.  The Guiborat "Prisme 11" Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut is all from 3 Grand Cru villages in the Cote des Blancs, known for the intensely chalky minerality this subregion imparts to the champagnes.  The zest and zip is preserved by fermentation in stainless steel, followed by 4 years on lees (longer than required for even a vintage champagne) to add additional complexity.  You'll find tons of citrus and pear here, tied together with a substantial acidity that helps refresh the palate during what can become a heavy meal.  

For an all-around delicious wine that will work well with the turkey and whatever side dishes you plan to have with it, I'm recommending the Waris-Larmandier "Racines de Trois" Brut.  This family estate is new to the New Orleans market just in time for the holidays.  They are producing excellent biodynamic champagnes.  This one is a blend of the 3 classic champagne grapes - chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier - vinified in a mix of stainless steel and large oak foudres.  Its generous dosage, at the upper limits rounds things out nicely and gives a well-balanced wine that will go with just about anything on the table.

If you want to get a champagne with a ton of complexity and character to specifically pair with the turkey, ham, duck, or even your turducken, the Bérêche et Fils "Campania Remensis" Extra Brut Rosé is it.  Driven by old-vine Pinot Noir, vinified in oak, and aged 3 years on the lees under cork in the family cellars of the Bérêche brothers, it has body, texture, and depth of flavor that will complement the roasted meats and vegetables that make up the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table.  I can personally vouch that this is drinking beautifully right now!

And of course, all of the above wines are available at Swirl :-) Happy Thanksgiving!