Thanksgiving Day is a major date on the calendar of many Americans and given how this year’s gone so far you might say that it’s been even more eagerly awaited than Christmas.
We’re all familiar with the classic scene of a family sitting at a table piled high with different dishes crowded around the famous turkey slathered in butter to keep it moist. Thanksgiving Day is a traditional American holiday in which families come together in a similar way to how Argentinians hold asado barbecues for their nearest and dearest at Christmas and New Year.
And as is typical for important celebrations the world over, the day is as much a culinary feast as anything else. In the days running up to it, some members of the family prepare traditional dishes while others are assigned the task of finding the right accompaniments: it’s one of those days when the best bottles are pulled out of the cellar.
Do Argentine wines have a place at the table? Of course they do.
There are a couple of constants to bear in mind: the traditional meal is roast turkey, although it’s far from the only dish, and you’ll also need some bottles to toast with. Fernando Beteta, a Master Sommelier living in Chicago, offers this advice: ‘For Thanksgiving Day, I suggest wines with mild tannins that can be served at low temperatures as well as light and even semi-sweet whites. And of course you’ll need something bubbly, it’s a celebration after all.’
Whites are a good option for the lean, delicately flavoured meat of the turkey. Argentine high altitude Chardonnays combine good volume with vivid freshness, making them an excellent fit.
Initially one might investigate Chardonnays from the Uco Valley, such as El Enemigo made by the oenologist Alejandro Vigil; Bramare from Viña Cobos; Catalpa from Atamisque or Cadus Vista Flores Appellation from Cadus Wines, while interesting and distinctive alternatives could include Laborum, from Parcela de Porvenir de Cafayate, made in the Calchaquí Valley and Costa & Pampa, the first oceanic Chardonnay in Argentina, made just a few miles from the Atlantic. All these whites offer good body and a rich expressiveness that will go extremely well with every forkful of turkey, especially when it comes with the classic candied yams.
But Argentina is famous for its reds and that’s exactly what a lot of people will be expecting when the turkey comes out. The side dishes play a key role here: accompaniments such as mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce and green bean casserole all bring different flavours into the mix.
Let’s start out with fresh young Malbecs such as the Patagonian A Lisa from Noemia, and options that haven’t been aged in wood such as Aruma de Caro, Vinyes Ocultos Cot Maceración Prolongada and Proyecto Las Compuertas Cinco Suelos from Durigutti Family Winemakers, or those aged in amphorae such as the new Kung Fu from Matías Riccitelli. Here, the balance between acidity and expressive fruitiness takes centre stage over secondary tannins.
Other than Malbec, one might like to consider the Argentine criolla grape, which offers good tension, a light body and a lot of personality. Vallisto Extremo, El Esteco Old Vines, Sunal Ilógico and Criolla Argentina from Niven Wines are all good choices. Or if you’re looking for a little more sophistication, try a Cabernet France with juice, freshness and elegance: Benmarco Sin Límites from Susana Balbo Wines; Eggo Franco from Zorzal Wines or Colonia Las Liebres from Altos Las Hormigas, all of which have a fruity, balsamic profile with a light palate.
Another of Beteta’s suggestions is Tonel Único N°248 Malbec 2006 from Cavas de Weinert, which is bound to offer an unforgettable experience with its evolved, refined character, similarly Patagonian Pinot Noirs such as those from Chacra, Humberto Canale and Otronia or the Mendozan Pinots Domaine Nico and Salentein Single Vineyard Los Jabalíes, all of which will help to ensure the day is a memorable success.
Finally, for dessert, when the pumpkin or pecan pie comes out, you might want to pop open something with bubbles. Argentine sparkling options worth investigating include Progenie I from Bodega Vistalba, Cruzat Cuvée Nature and Chandon Cuvée Reserve Pinot Noir.
It’s been a difficult year, so when better to interrupt one’s routine with the help of some top Argentine wineries? But all that aside, as another American expert, Eric Asimov, points out, the idea is to enjoy yourself: ‘There are no wrong Thanksgiving wines.’