Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Perfect Thanksgiving Wine

Note I said "a" perfect Thanksgiving wine, not "the" perfect Thanksgiving wine. There are so many wines, especially white wines, that are great for a meal of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, yada yada. Off the top of my head, a lightly oaked white Burgundy, say, or a Vouvray vin tendre, or a leesy Chablis, or a lithe (neither rich nor sweet) Alsatian pinot blanc. You get the idea: wines that marry ballast and body with mineral-driven clarity. I hate the grandma stank of gewurztraminer, typically, and contra Eric Asimov I personally find that sauvignon blanc rarely fits with Thanksgiving fare, unless we're talking about the classic white Bordeaux blend of sémillon and sauv blanc.

Ah, but I babble. To the subject! On a lark last night I picked up the 2003 Vega de Ribes Penedès Sasserra Malvasia de Sitges to bring to a friend's house for dinner. Whereas a high proportion of malvasia is made into sweet wine, the Sasserra is dry, and despite its high alcohol content (14.5%) I hoped it would pair well with nibbles before the hunks of steak landed on our plates.

We actually got much more than we bargained for, which was immediately apparent when a complex yet nuanced array of yellow characters — flowers, lemon, honey, peach, almond slivers, and minerals — hit my nose. It's equally nuanced on the palate, assertive but not aggressive, and the creamy, slightly soapy body is balanced by grippy acidity, herbal tones, and a clean mineral energy that broadens on the finish. At $35 this isn't for everyday sipping, but on the other hand it's not an everyday sipper.

Malvasia de sitges is a very rare subvariety of Malvasia that is identical to malvasia delle lipari and a handful of other (also rare) subvarieties, and its name comes from its "hometown" of Sitges, the cosmopolitan Catalonian beach resort city — although I've no idea where within the Penedès region the grapes for the Sasserra actually come from.

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