Why Brunello is (and is not) the perfect wine for Thanksgiving

best brunello 2010 parker larner

We’ve actually already posted a Thanksgiving recommendation this year: The Fattoria dei Barbi Morellino di Scansano.

And we stand by our recommendation.

For the price, for the food-friendliness, for the extraordinary appeal of youthful, coastal Sangiovese, Morellino di Scansano, in general, can’t be beat.

Yes, it’s true that you can find great Chianti, Brunello, and Super Tuscans in the trattorie of Florence. But Morellino’s early approachability and its easy-going nature makes it one of the tavern-keepers’ favorites.

We also believe that Brunello is a great Thanksgiving wine. But there is a caveat.

While Morellino tends to weigh in on the less expensive side of the spectrum, Brunello’s value and price point make it a “special occasion” wine.

Thanksgiving in the U.S. is a special occasion, no doubt. But if you’re family is serving 20 persons at Thanksgiving, most of whom aren’t wine aficionados (unless you come from a family of wine connoisseurs), Brunello might not be the way to go.

But if you’re doing a small gathering, especially if it includes more than one wine lover, Brunello is a great wine to serve with the Thanksgiving feast.

Where Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo might be overwhelmed by some of the flavors in the Thanksgiving gastronomic canon (like the tanginess of cranberry sauce or the sweetness of sweet potato pie), great Sangiovese (the only grape allowed in Brunello) has just enough zing between its vibrant red fruit flavor and brilliant acidity to work well with all the flavors of the classic Thanksgiving menu.

That’s because of Sangiovese’s unique status in the panorama of the fine red wine grapes of the world. Where Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir’s earthiness will be eclipsed by the aggressive (however delicious) flavors of Thanksgiving, Sangiovese sings in harmony against them.

I can speak from experience: For years and years, while I was a graduate student, a friend of mine from Bagno Vignoni (Montalcino) came to our house in La Jolla, California for Thanksgiving each year. What did he bring? Brunello, of course! (Back in those days, you could carry as much wine on the plane as you wanted.)

There were never more than eight persons at our Thanksgiving celebration and the wines worked great with the roast turkey, the stuffing, and potatoes. And at the same time, the gorgeous lively fruit in the wines was never eclipsed by the other tart or sweet flavors of the meal.

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