Thanksgiving can often be one of the most stressful gatherings of the year, and that’s not only due to the large amount of food most people plan to prepare. It’s a meal with several different flavors, which can make pairing wine intimidating. This is because not only are you looking for a wine that tastes great with the food, you’re also looking for something all of your guests will enjoy. And if you happen to be the guest, there is usually even more pressure to bring a great bottle.
So we’re here to help. We gathered 22 readers at In Vino in the East Village this past week for a Thanksgiving tasting in order to provide you with the definitive list of wines to serve. We served the full Thanksgiving meal including turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes and the best mac n’ cheese and biscuits we’ve ever had from our friends at Bobwhite.
We asked wineries from around the world to submit wines they felt would be great for one of America’s favorite holidays. We looked at sparklers, whites and reds, rating and tasting them all, both on a numerical scale from 1 to 10 as well as by giving each wine a simple yes or no vote when it comes to how well it paired with the food, and how likely readers were to bring that bottle to their own dinners.
We began the meal with a range of sparkling wines. Many of our readers mentioned their desire to serve bubbly at the beginning of their own Thanksgiving meals, as a nice way to welcome their guests as well as to whet everyone’s palates. In this category the two highest rated bottles were both Champagnes, though readers were divided over which they preferred more. Those Champagnes were Taittinger Brut La Française NV and Laurent-Perrier Demi-Sec NV.
With the Taittinger, most people preferred how light and refreshing it was, citing how it could easily blend in with the beginnings of the meal. The Laurent-Perrier, being a Demi-Sec, was on the sweeter side, which divided some readers, though all agreed if it was too sweet for the beginning of the meal, it was perfect with the pumpkin pie. Both of these bottles cost around $40 and would be great to bring as a guest, especially if you want to make an impression.
After the bubbly, everyone began to really dig into the delicious food, and with that we began to pour the whites. A variety of white wines were consumed, from rich white Burgundies and California Chardonnays, to Chenin Blanc, Gruner Veltliner and Gewurztraminer but the wines that were preferred above all were the Rieslings.
Many readers commented that the Riesling seemed to go best with the heavier fare, with the honeyed fruit flavors of the wine playing well with the food. While Rieslings as a whole were voted as the best bet for Thanksgiving, the two wines readers preferred most were both Rieslings from Germany. The first was Gunderloch Jean Baptiste Riesling Kabinett 2014 and the other was the Schloss Johannisberger Silberlack Trocken.
Prior to beginning the tasting, our readers commented that red wine would be the most likely style of wine they’d serve at Thanksgiving, with all but two of them also saying that if given the choice, they’d always choose red over white. In this category the scores were the highest of the evening and readers went for a wide variety of reds, from the more heavy and full-bodied styles to the light and bright. As a whole, the one characteristic readers said they looked for when tasting was presence of fruit.
The overall favorite wine chosen by our readers was appropriately a wine made in America, a bottle of 2012 Qupé Central Coast Syrah. The wine was a perfect complement for the food and readers commented on how enjoyable it was to drink. Close behind the Syrah was a bottle of Rioja, the Marques de Murrieta Finca Ygay Reserva 2009, which readers found to be delicious. When they also learned that it was $21 a bottle, they considered it a steal to purchase a wine with a bit of age at that price. In addition, Riojas across the board received high scores.
Finally a surprising selection was a bottle of Sauvion Chinon “Les Roches Cachees” 2014, which is made of 100% Cabernet Franc. The Cab Franc was a welcomed player with the food and readers loved the wine’s spicy and earthy notes. They felt it paired especially well with the turkey.
The Top Wines
Taittinger Brut La Française NV – $52
Laurent-Perrier Demi-Sec NV – $40
Bisol Crede Brut Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene Superiore 2014 – $23
If either of these bottles are unavailable, look for a non-vintage Champagne or a bottle of good-quality Prosecco.
If you are unable to find these specific bottles, go with a dry (Kabinett or Trocken) Riesling from Germany or a New World unoaked Chardonnay.
If unable to find one of these specific wines, look for a California Central Coast Syrah, a Reserva Rioja or a bottle of Cabernet Franc.