If you’re perplexed about what wines to serve with your Thanksgiving meal, Brian Moore has some ideas that will help when you make a last-minute dash to your favorite wine shop.
Which wine to buy is the daunting question. Moore says you should pick your food first and then match the characteristics of the dish with those of the wine. That’s oversimplifying his technique, but basically, that’s how to do it, no matter when.
“I use the same method for pairing all food with wine,” said Moore, owner of Chez Max, which was recently named one of the Richmond area’s top three restaurants in the Richmond.com/Richmond Times-Dispatch annual “The Best” survey of readers.
“I look at three aspects of the food and recipe: (1) flavor of ingredients, the most prominent two or three; (2) texture of ingredients — acid, tannin, fat, etc.; (3) cooking method.”
Moore offers oyster stuffing with sage, thyme and rosemary as an example.
“The primary flavors are brine and herbal,” he said. “The texture is rich, from butter, cornmeal and stock. The cooking method is baked — no added flavors or textures.”
Moore’s suggestion for a white wine pairing is a Muscadet Sèvre et Maine from Loire, France.
“Its minerality pairs off with oysters; the acidity balances out richness; its citrus notes brighten the herbal characters,” he said.
Your preference is a red wine, you say. Moore has that covered, too.
“A Fleurie from Beaujolais, France,” he said. “Its fruity nature balances with the oysters like a mignonette. Spice character lends itself well to the herbs. Low acidity melds well with richness.”
Moore, in the wine business for 30 years and owner of Chez Max since 2018, takes a specific approach to the wines he has on his Thanksgiving table.
“I’m usually an ABC guy: anything but chardonnay/cabernet,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong; I love both varietals. I just like more to find a wine that makes people aware of what else is out there.”
Moore’s suggestion for white-wine types to complement the traditional Thanksgiving meal is nontraditional.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc white wines from the southern Rhone Valley are often rich, flavorful and full-bodied. Grapes used are clairette, grenache blanc, bourboulenc, roussanne, picpoul and picardan — most in that “never heard of” category for many wine drinkers. These grapes make up only 6% to 7% of the wines made in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The rest are red wine grapes.
Moore’s second choice for a white is Muscadet Sèvre et Maine from France’s Loire Valley. (Don’t confuse this with Muscato, a grape that produces a sweet wine.) Muscadet Sèvre et Maine wines are made from melon de bourgogne grapes that produce a dry white wine.
It’s back to Châteauneuf-du-Pape for Moore’s suggestion for a Thanksgiving red wine. These wines typically have many of the following grapes in their blends: cinsault, counoise, grenache noir, mourvèdre, muscardin, piquepoul noir, syrah, terret noir and vaccarèse.
Second choice: Those delightfully fruity and aromatic wines from Beaujolais, that stand-alone area of Burgundy.
If ham is your choice for the main entrée, Moore’s top pick is a rosé preferably from Rhône (“Provence rosé is too light and will get lost,” he said).
Others: Beaujolais from any of the subregions (Moore’s pick would be a Morgon) or a riesling with a touch of sweetness, such as kabinett or spatlese from Germany.
Perfect pairings? Could be, but Moore says there’s more to it than that.
“I don’t dream of that ‘one perfect wine,’ ” he said. “To me, a perfect wine plays an integral role in creating a lasting positive memory. It must be in balance with the atmosphere, food, company and occasion. When that happens, it doesn’t matter where it’s from, when it’s from or how much it is — at that moment, it’s perfect.”