When it comes to putting together a traditional Thanksgiving menu, the food’s the easy part. Almost everyone’ll agree that you’ll need a roast turkey. Then there’s the stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, some greens, and usually a juicy ham. But the wine pairing? Now that part of the menu’s a little less cut and dry, partly because the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock were probably bigger hard cider than wine drinkers, and there’s no mention of wine in any accounts of that fateful first Thanksgiving back in 1623. This lack of a “blueprint” for choosing Thanksgiving meal-worthy wines can make the endeavor a daunting task.
As luck would have it, a Thanksgiving-themed lunch at Il Gattopardo restaurant in New York City with Ilaria Petitto of Donnachiara winery, helped to resolve any wine pairing quandaries I might’ve had about the upcoming holiday.
Donnachiara winery, named for Chiara Mazzarelli, a noblewoman and the family matriarch who oversaw the agriculture and viticulture affairs of the family estate in Irpinia over a century ago and spearheaded the eventual development of the winery as a leading producer in Campania, has been making wine for five generations and counting.
Ilaria Petitto stands at the helm of this family-owned and operated winery, while Ilaria’s mother Chiara who managed the winery before her, continues to oversee the vineyards.
Donnachiara winery stands on a hill overlooking the town of Montefalcione in the Southern Italian region of Campania, 36 miles outside of Naples. Donnachiara focuses on producing wines made from the local white varietals Fiano di Avellino, Falanghina, and Greco di Tufo, and the indigenous red grape Aglianico, cultivated on sloping hillside vineyards standing as high as 560 meters above sea level.
The philosophy at Donnachiara involves producing DOC and DOCG quality wines using local varietals that are best suited to the terroir in Irpinia. The presence of volcanic components (Mount Vesuvius is relatively close by) and tufo rock in the clayey and calcareous soil of the vineyards tends to produce elegant and complex wines with concentrated fruit flavors, and good acidity.
The four-course meal featured both classic Southern Italian fare and a Thanksgiving-inspired dish.
The festivities began with a trio of antipasti featuring lime and herb-marinated sea bass crudo, breaded mozzarella cakes flavored with anchovy sauce, and rice, parmesan, and pea arancini in a veal sauce.
A second course of cavatelli tossed with beans and mussels followed.
Then came a Thanksgiving-inspired dish complete with turkey prepared two ways, and finally, a specialty cake from Naples.
Six wines from Donnachiara winery were paired with the four courses. The informal tasting lunch allowed us to mix and match the six wines with all the courses. I was particularly pleased to find that the Fiano di Avellino, the Greco di Tufo, and the two Aglianico-based wines all made equally good complements to the turkey dish. Below is a list of the Donnachiara winery selections that were poured at the lunch.
Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2021 $20
100% Fiano di Avellino
Classic interpretation of Fiano di Avellino.
Flavors of honey, dried citrus and orchard fruits, and hazelnuts, as well as chestnuts and white flowers.
Soft and balanced, with freshness and a delicate acidity. Fiano di Avellino is a white wine that ages well.
Expect these flavors to evolve, and take on hints of fresh herbs, petrol, and smoke when aged 10 to 15 years.
Empatia Fiano di Avellino Bio 2021 $23
100% Fiano di Avellino
Organic single vineyard production. Crisp, with a bright acidity, and flavors of lemons, grapefruit, peaches, and pineapple, along with balsamic and fresh vegetation.
Greco di Tufo DOCG 2021 $21
100% Greco di Tufo
Medium-bodied, with a balanced acidity, and flavors of lemons, green apples, pears, and white and yellow flowers.
Aletheia Greco di Tufo DOCG Riserva 2020 $28
100% Greco di Tufo
Crisp, with medium-weight, a soft minerality, and flavors of oranges, and ripe apples and pears, as well as peaches and mangoes.
Aglianico Irpinia DOC 2020 $24
This wine was produced using grapes sourced from two vineyards.
A medium-bodied wine, with balanced alcohol and bright red fruit flavors.
Taurasi DOCG 2018 $35
This wine spent one year in French oak barrels. This was followed by an additional year in bottle as per DOCG regulations.
This Taurasi reflects a new style that’s approachable when young and grows increasingly soft and complex with age.
Bold, smooth, and balanced, with flavors of ripe plums, blackberries, and dark cherries, as well as vanilla, oak, and cocoa.
Can be aged for 30 years.
Thanksgiving usually means big gatherings and this often spells plenty of different tastes when it comes to wine style preferences. The duos of Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo had enough weight, concentrated fruit flavors, and balanced acidity to enhance the flavors of the turkey, while the freshness and lush dark fruit flavors of the Aglianico and Taurasi allowed them to complement, rather than overpower, the poultry. I can imagine they’ll also work well with the savory sweetness of a honey ham, and the earthy elements of a sausage stuffing. The wide range of flavor profiles in the Donnachiara portfolio will help to ensure that there’ll be a wine for every palate at the Thanksgiving table.
So if you’re browsing the aisles at your local wine shop might I suggest picking up some of these Donnachiara selections?