Courtesy of The 14th Factory exhibition
November 21, 2015

When someone invites you to dine on cuisine from Noma, the Copenhagen-based restaurant that many people think is the very best in the world, you say yes.

That’s what I said, earlier in the fall, when I got such an invite, for an event previewing a wildly ambitious art installation called The 14th Factory. The project, which in April 2016 takes over an historic former JP Morgan bank building on Wall Street, is the brainchild of the Hong Kong–based artist Simon Birch.

 Courtesy of The 14th Factory exhibition

Birch thinks big, and so do his donors: One of them has pockets deep enough to fly dozens of staffers from Noma to New York. A veritable army of them served us in the cavernous space that will hold just part of Birch’s boffo artistic vision.

Chef René Redzepi’s food did not disappoint. We experienced mysterious, thought-provoking dishes like Things in Chocolate (one of the things was moss—yes, moss) and Black Garlic Flower.

It won’t surprise you to know that the food was delicious, and so were the wines, courtesy the New York-based natural wine importer Jenny & Francois, an excellent outfit that I trust implicitly. (What’s natural wine? Go here to see their answer: jennyandfrancois.com/test/about-us/what-is-natural-wine/)

All four pairings with the savory courses were white. Nary a red on the table.

Surprised? Don’t be. Lots of people think that reds are more “serious” than whites, and hence must be served at some point in the meal if the food served is going to be elevated. Not true. As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s good to remember how versatile and flexible white wines are—I tend to prefer them with my turkey, in particular. And as far as the cheese course goes, whites are almost always the right choice.

In the case of Redzepi’s food—probably quite unlike what your mom is planning to serve at Thanksgiving—pairing the wines was partly about getting out of the way of the subtle and surprising flavors, and complementing them with similar complexity. But these great wines are available to everyone, and they don’t require Michelin-starred food as accompaniment.

A non-vintage Austrian wine, Strohmeier Weiss No. 6 “Trauben, Liebe & Zeit” ($37), started us off with its vivid, sour-apple brightness, and the generous acid in the wine (it’s made from Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay) made everyone immediately hungry.

 Courtesy of The 14th Factory exhibition

Chardonnay-haters are directed to the next wine, Dominique Derain Saint-Aubin Blanc En Remilly 2013 ($65), a premier cru bottling from Burgundy, if they think this grape can’t be both rich and light on its feet, expressive and demure.

As a devoted Loire fan, I was primed to like the next wine, a Chenin Blanc made from unusually old vines, and the La Grapperie La Désirée Vin de France 2008 ($45) delivered an intense minerality and lots of quince flavor—and it needs some time in the cellar to develop fully. 

The Jura, a previously unknown and unloved French wine region, has become extra-hot of late with wine geeks like sommeliers, and the Domaine de la Tournelle Fleur de Savagnin Arbois 2012 ($37) shows why: zingy acidity, freshness, and loads of citrus appeal, with an earthy side providing balance.

These whites are an easy way to bring sophistication to the table for Thanksgiving, for Noma, for anytime.

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