The thing about Thanksgiving …
Thanksgiving is that uniquely American holiday when lots of relatives who may not see each other often (or have much in common) get together for a big meal. Stuffing or dressing? Mashed or sweet? Pumpkin or pecan? And that’s before sports and politics.
Choosing wines for Thanksgiving can also seem challenging. The flavors of the traditional menu are as diverse as the guests. The key is balance.
Balance means a harmonious blend of the basic flavors in wine – tart, fruity, bitter, and alcohol. Tartness comes from acidity in grapes, fruitiness comes from ripe grapes, bitterness comes mostly from tannin in grape skins, and alcohol comes from fermentation. If any of these component flavors overwhelms the others, the wine can seem uneven or simply unpleasant. But if the acidity, tannin, fruit and alcohol are coherent and complementary, the wine is nicely balanced.
Balanced wines have two great attributes. They are crowd-pleasers, and they taste good with many kinds of food – just the ticket for Thanksgiving. Here are a couple of good suggestions.
Turkey is a fowl, but it is also a game bird with rich, dark flavors and texture. Elegantly balanced 2018 Ursa Tannat Rosé walks the line between white and red wines, a flattering partner for the big bird. Dark meat lovers may prefer an aromatic red like the 2016 Bending Branch Tempranillo. Both these well-balanced wines are also compatible with the many heirloom side dishes on the holiday table.
The cousin who rarely drinks may prefer something a little fruitier like Bending Branch Thinkers Blanc. Also consider having a bottle of Bending Branch 2017 Texas Tannat® around for that uncle whose tastes tend toward whisky and cigars. In wine as in family, balance is the answer.
Happy Thanksgiving from the Bending Branch Family!
Happening now in the winery...
Cryo-Maceration – Cryo or CM for short – is a technique we use to improve the extraction of color, flavor, and tannin from the skins of red grapes. Freshly harvested grapes are destemmed, put in half-ton bins, and then taken to the freezer. As the grapes freeze, large, slow-forming ice crystals weaken the cellular structures containing tannin, pigment, and flavor. Once defrosted, the subsequent fermentation can extract about 50% more of these critical compounds than a conventional fermentation without Cryo-Maceration.
Conventional Fermentation – around 20% to 40% extraction
Cryo-Maceration – around 30% to 60% extraction
The first wine in which Bending Branch employed Cryo-Maceration, the Bending Branch Winery 2011 Estate Tannat CM, was awarded Double Gold, Texas Class Champion, Class Champion, and was named Top Texas Wine at the 2014 Houston Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition.
One useful side effect of Cryo-Maceration is that it allows us to defer the fermentation of a portion of our fruit until later in the season when there is more room in the winery and more time in the winemaking schedule.
Lost Pirogue Vineyard in Center Point is awakening after last year’s very wet autumn, and a winter that was colder and drier than typical. Still, bud break this year was right on schedule, only a day later than in 2018. The Picpoul Blanc vines pictured here had just begun to bud out when the vineyard experienced an early March cold-snap. Some early buds may have been nipped, but many more are pushing out as the days get sunnier. Flowering is next, followed by green leaves in a couple of weeks – or sooner if the vineyard gets significant rain. Bring on harvest 2019!