“Why is it,” a leading wine writer asked me rhetorically late last month, “that our genre is the only one where we treat our audience like they know nothing about the subject matter?”
He was referring to the myriad “best wines for Thanksgiving” posts that flood the eno-internets, from the Pioneer Woman to the Reverse Wine Snob. (The Pioneer Woman’s post currently ranks higher than the New York Times in Google search results. What does that say about the power of wine and food blogging?)
As my friend pointed out, “every year, the same thing happens as if it’s never happened before. Why does [a given writer] publish the same article each year before Thanksgiving? It’s not like much has changed since the last time!”
Despite every respectable wine writer’s claim of a “division of church [advertising] and state [editorial content],” the bottom line — and let’s just go ahead and say it out loud, people — is that Thanksgiving wine recommendations are driven by advertising.
Yes, it’s true that the top wine writers of our generation are not directly influenced by the advertisers’ agendas. But there is no denying that especially in the internets era, the topics covered by mainstream wine writers are driven by clicks. Anyone even vaguely familiar with Search Engine Optimization will recognize that even the most editorially lofty wine writer is called on to deliver a Thanksgiving wines piece to align with the timing of Thanksgiving.
Name me a mainline masthead that doesn’t publish Thanksgiving wine recommendations these days. For that matter, name me a mainline masthead that doesn’t publish a Passover wine recommendations piece every year. It’s always been driven, however indirectly, by advertising dollars.
But in my view, there’s an even more powerful cultural trend that inspires these posts: the wholly and unique American concept that there is one PERFECT wine to go with the Thanksgiving feast. It’s a phenomenon that arises from Americans’ notion of exceptionalism and — I would go as far to say — historical progressionism.
Not progressivism, the socio-political philosophy that vexes today’s conservatives. I’m talking about progressionism, the very 19th-century and some would say Darwinian concept that evolution always makes things better. The ultimate expression of that philosophy, very much shaped by quasi-religious positivism, is that there exists a Platonic or otherwise divine ideal to which we are all striving.
This mode of thinking is also inspired by the erroneous belief that no one who came before us could be smarter than us. The Times has been publishing its Thanksgiving wine column since 2004. I read and enjoy it every year. But has the Thanksgiving menu changed since 2004? Have the world’s wines and their potential pairings changed? Nope, I didn’t think so.
Taking a page from our fellow European wine lovers, what if we threw “the perfect Thanksgiving pairing” to the wind this year and just enjoyed the wine and food? One family likes to serve “unfriendly to wine” artichokes. Another, asparagus. Does that mean that in the former case they can serve no wine at all and in the latter they are forced to serve Gewürztraminer, the only TexSom-sanctioned wine to go with that vegetable?
To my point, let me draw upon an ancient Latin saying: if the Romans were forced to forsake wine when artichokes are served, there would be no Rome. I’m joking about the ancient Latin saying part but can you imagine a Roman serving you delicious carciofi alla giudia or carciofi alla romana without a glass of fresh Frascati or crisp Castelli Romani?
At our family Thanksgiving this year, we’ll be serving Moscato d’Asti (a favorite of nearly half of the roughly 30 people who will be part of our gathering), Lambrusco (another easy winner for our people), some aged Nebbiolo from our cellar (for the red wine lovers), a buttload of Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio (because so many of the celebrants, including me and Tracie, know and love these grapes on any occasion), and a still-to-be-determined but probably sweet wine from Quarts de Chaume (to pair, against every and all rules condoned at TexSom, with the pies).
There won’t be one perfect wine. There will be plenty of wines to choose from. And there will be something for everyone. And that’s because the perfect pairing at Thanksgiving isn’t the wine. It’s the people who love and discover the wines and the way they make the food all the more enjoyable.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I’ll be pouring wine tonight from 6 p.m. onward at Roma in Houston. It’s a free tasting and the wines will be available to purchase for your Thanksgiving meal. (See? It’s ALL about advertising!)