The leaves have changed and wine shops are ordering bottles like mad for you put on the Thanksgiving table. There’ll be deals and shelf talkers and crowds of confused consumers trying to find the right wine for the cornucopia of flavors that come with decades of tradition and the desire to incorporate one’s own native dishes with the conventional fare. It’s dizzying. But here’s a tip to cut through the fray: Whether it’s white or red the key is to find wines that have a bright acidity, a smooth tannin structure and medium weight on the palate. That may sound a bit geeky but with the wines I am about to list, once you buy them and try them, go back to that sentence and you’ll see what I am talking about and never have to read another Thanksgiving wine article again. Let’s get down to biz. Being that this a straight-up American holiday I will list a domestic and non-domestic for each wine. Oh! And they are very affordable.
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The nice thing about bubbly wine is that it can be a great welcome glass for your guests as well as a wine that can be consumed throughout the meal. Sparkling wines are not just for celebrations, they’re also great for cutting through fatty foods as well as amplifying the flavors of many dishes. My go-to for this is the always affordable Cremant De Bourgogne, a sparkling from Burgundy in France. They’re always priced way less than Champagne, ranging in the high teens on up. On offer is soft, round and crisp apple Blanc de Blanc made from mostly Chardonnay and other native grapes such as Aligote and also the smooth and sexy Blanc de Noir made from the famous Pinot Noir grape as well as its juicy offspring Gamay.
If you want domestic, look no further than the Gruet family from New Mexico. Hailing from the small town of Bethon in the Champagne area of France, they came to the States and fell in love with the soils and climate just south of Albuquerque. They have a wide range of bubbles in the French tradition that range from $11-$20+. My fave is the Blanc de Noir made from Pinot Noir. Sip these gems with some turkey and yams and you’ll be golden.
By this time of year rosé season has long passed. There is good chance that wine shops will be lowering their prices trying to clear their inventory because this bright beautiful wine doesn’t really age. So have at it! Buy whatever you want. Rosé is a no brainer. If you want a push, go for rosé from Spain. Often made from the Garnacha grape, they can be crazy cheap, starting at $8.
For domestic, well, I’m a New Yorker and love supporting my state, so I tend to sip on the Long Island pink stuff like Wölffer Estate Vineyard from the South Fork or Shinn Estate Vineyards on the North Fork, but note that they are not easy to find outside of New York.
Chardonnay people! This grape has come a long way in our American wine culture and is a perfect pairing for pretty much everything on the table. I like to grab bottles from where the grape was born, Burgundy. Specifically the most southern tip of the appellation, Macon (may-kun). The most popular and widely available will be Louis Jadot. These wines have a great acidity and often see minimal oak — so you won’t find a lot of banana and vanilla — and are nice and round with notes of crisp apple and melon with hints of citrus. These descriptors are what this grape wants to give, so when going for an American Chardonnay I would highly suggest one that sees no oak. In the USA, oaked Chardonnays often have high alcohol content and too much of that gooey vanilla and banana, which will take away the subtle flavors of the many dishes on the TDay table. Another option is a Riesling, which is very popular right now but not always easy to find outside of urban centers. If you can, get a nice dry Austrian Riesling — they are crispy and lean with hints of apricot and lemon zest.
Stateside it’s a bit more difficult in the quality department so try for Washington State where the vines are high and the air is rare. These examples have all the fun of the Austrian style with a slight dollop of natural sugar for any dish that might have a little bit of heat.
Way too many options here, so let’s focus a bit. Remember that sentence in the introduction? Well, it applies to reds more than anything for Thanksgiving. Bright acidity, smooth tannin, medium weight on the palate. I mentioned Gamay and Louis Jadot earlier and here they are again. Also from Southern Burgundy there is a town and an appellation called Beaujolais. These wines are made from 100% Gamay and are a bullseye pairing with hints of crushed strawberries and raspberries mingling with bright floral notes of violets. YES! Gimme!
It’s a bit tough to find a domestic version of this grape, but, if you can, try to grab one from Oregon. Speaking of Burgundy and Oregon, let’s finish this up with one of the most famous of all grapes: Pinot Noir. Nothing fits comfier on the turkey table than wines made from this Burgundian native. From France, these wine can fetch astronomical prices, but there are still well-priced examples out there if you focus on Pinot Noir from the southern France appellation Languedoc instead of the pricy Burgundy bottle. This is a bit tricky, so ask your wine merchant to help you out. In my humble opinion, Oregon makes the best Pinot Noir in America. They can be a bit pricy as well but a good go-to is the well-known and easy to find A to Z line which ranges from $10 on up.
So go out there and cut through the crowds. Try to find the right shop with the right merchants that care about their inventory. But if you can’t, that’s ok. Wine has become so popular in our society that even larger stores have a nice selection. Enjoy the food coma!