Now then, on to 2010.
Lately, I've been revisiting Andrew Barr's award-winning book about American boozing habits, Drink: A Social History of America.
Among other things, Barr drops some fascinating facts about the Pilgrims’ arrival in the New World. I did not know, for instance, that the working sailors on the Mayflower deposited their guests prematurely in order to protect their dwindling supply of beer.
Had the sailors' suds held out, Barr suggests the Pilgrims would have been delivered further south, where they were actually intending to go. But alas, the poor Pilgrim's were punted off the ship at Plymouth…and forced to drink water.
Meanwhile, in the similarly titled book Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol, Iain Gately writes that the Pilgrims were put down in Cape Cod primarily because of bad weather. But just the same, the sailors were supremely stingy with their beer.
Gately quotes William Bradford: “The passengers...were hasted ashore and made to drink water that the seamen might have the more beer.” A bit later, Bradford writes that when he was sick and asking for a small bit of beer, “it was answered that if he was their own father he should have none." Harsh.
Turns out, the Pilgrims were not the puritanical teetotalers of myth. They partook freely in beer, booze, and wine when they could get it.
I did a little further digging in Barr's book and uncovered another interesting tidbit. It turns out the Mayflower, before being commissioned by English Separatists, was used to ship wine from Bordeaux to England.
And so it is perhaps no coincidence at all that I have found Bordeaux-style wines to be quite tasty with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Bordeaux reds are fine, food-friendly blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and a couple other lesser-known grapes from the region.
So this Thanksgiving, I'll be looking for lighter styles of Bordeaux, perhaps a couple bottles with a few years on them, preferably low on the alcohol side. It will be my little tribute to the Mayflower's early career as a workhorse, carting clarets to London.
Also, as a nod to the truly American aspect of the meal, I'll keep a couple bottles of fruity Zinfandel on the table. Again, I'll favor a lighter style rather than the big Zins that are delicious but high in alcohol and potentially overwhelming--to both dinner and diner. When I drink heavy, high-alcohol wines with Thanksgiving dinner, I always run the risk midway through the meal of pitching forward asleep into the gravy boat. (Not impressive to the in-laws.)
I'll also have a dry, lowish-alcohol Riesling or two within reach. Riesling should complement Thanksgiving spices like cloves and nutmeg. A sparkling rosé would be nice, too, because it's fruity, food friendly, and the sparkle washes the palate clean leaving you prepared to greet new flavors.
At any rate, I hope these suggestions are helpful. If you have suggestions of your own, let me know what you think! What worked? What didn't? What are your all-time favorite Thanksgiving wines? Add a comment below.