It seems like every year each publication has an idea about which wine (instead of wines) will be the next big holiday must-have. This year? My bets are on South African Chenin Blanc. Last year it was rosé, for the past decade it’s been Beaujolais Nouveau, and then the classic go-to is Morgon or any other Beaujolais cru.
For the most part, this year people are playing it safe. Pinot Noir from Burgundy or Oregon, South African Chenin Blanc, or Californian Sauvignon Blanc. And throw in a few Sancerres for good measure.
These are all wonderful wines. And they all would go great with a turkey and stuffing. My point is not to tell you what to drink this year, you know what you like. And since you’re at least of legal drinking age to be reading this (nod your head, please) you’ve had enough Thanksgivings to know what you like with what. Instead, my point is to try to explain that other styles of wine could be great options with your meal too.
The food is already the same. Every. Year. So why not mix up your wine choices a bit?
Are you invited to someone else’s’ Thanksgiving this year? If so – add your own special touch by bringing a wine you really like. Hey, then you know you’ll love at least one thing.
So the key is to have some versatile wines. Wines that are complex enough to work with the array of sides that cover any and all kitchen space you may have, plus the main protein of choice. I have a feeling Thanksgiving is going to look a lot different for us this year, so why not splurge on a bottle or two if you have fewer people? Next, the variety is also very important. Just like how you eat your Thanksgiving meal by mixing and matching the sides and sauces, do so with your wines. Be bold, people! Like our forefathers before us!
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So let’s get started on your off the beaten path wine list:
Yes, I’m going there! Nebbiolo will be excellent on your thanksgiving table provided TWO things: 1. You are not serving anything crazy spicy. 2. You have plenty of gravy to add to your dried-out, over-cooked turkey (if you cook your turkey perfectly – you go! and number 2 doesn’t apply, because your luscious Nebbiolo will still go wonderfully with it). Think of the wine’s fresh fruits as examples of cranberry sauce, the bright element that ties into the meal. Now, think of the earthiness and savory notes of the wine as the herbs in your stuffing and the umami flavor in your gravy. You won’t be disappointed with either option listed below!
Nebbiolo is a very light-bodied wine, so it won’t compete with all the heaviness of the food. If you get one that’s a bit older, the tannins will have softened. If you get a newer one, taste it first when you open it, and perhaps decant it, checking every 15-20 minutes until you like where it’s at, depending on the producer it could be 10 minutes or it could be an hour. The two below are already good to go for you, so no guessing games necessary.
100% Nebbiolo grown right here in the US of A in a vineyard next door to where the good old American Father of Wine, Thomas Jefferson, lived! This wine has great aging potential but also fabulous winemakers who allow the wine to be drunk younger if desired. The wine is aged for 12 months in small French oak barriques, 30% of the wine goes into new oak and 70% into used, so the combined product has bright cherry and cranberry fruits, herbal notes of thyme and sage, and well-rounded notes of baking spices. How about that for an accompaniment to your pumpkin pie?
G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe, IT ~$36.00
G.D. Vajra has been making traditional wines for generations and with this one, they pay homage to the art of blending. Albe, named after the sunrise, of which they claim their high elevation vineyards see three every day. The high elevation allows the grapes to maintain their acidity as well as get ample sun, rising above the fog lines. Furthermore, these wines are aged in large Slavonian oak casks for 30 months, as per Italian wine law. This wine is full of rose hips, lightly floral, cranberries, and slight notes of white pepper and dried herbs.
(OR CINSAULT-BASED BLENDS)
Cinsault is a very versatile grape. You can find it, rarely, on its own as a varietal wine, but it’s commonly blended with grenache as well. This grape transforms into wine adding strawberry notes with a touch of refreshing tartness and fresh flowers. When paired with grenache you get a bit more “oomph” in the wine and a heavier red-berry flavor. Watch your producers and regions here – there is a pretty big range of styles with these blends from playfully light to seriously thick. For this occasion, I’d like to stay on the lighter half of the spectrum.
I told you earlier, I foresaw South Africa as a big go-to. But none of the articles I’ve looked at have pointed out Cinsault or any of their red blends! This particular wine is a blend of 82% Cinsault, 10% Shiraz, 8% Grenache. This wine hugely over-delivers for the price. It’s aged on the lees (dead yeast cells – it’s a lot more delicious than it sounds. Essentially it adds texture and fullness to the wine) in neutral oak foudres and concrete tanks for about 7 months. The resulting wine is delicate, floral, ripe, and rich fruits but not overpowering nor overly tannic. This will definitely be on my Thanksgiving table! (P.S. in case you want to get aboard the S. African Chenin train – they have a great chenin blanc too. Hooot hooot!)
Also a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault, but the lightest version of the three one can come by. It’s also an exceptionally good value from the Rhone Valley. Light pressing and cold stabilization make sure this wine stays crisp to refresh your palate with every bite you eat.
The grenache base provides the cranberry and cherry notes, while cinsault adds elements of fresh strawberries and the syrah provides the body and peppery thyme notes. Truth be told, this is a simple and delicious wine, and with everything else on your table, it may not be a bad idea to have something simple and easy. Elegant and bright, an easy-drinking component to add to your Thanksgiving table.
Is any holiday complete without the pop of a cork and some bubbles?! Not wherever I am! And please don’t discount the bubbles to go with the meal. When in doubt, bubbles. Why? Because the bubbles scrub the palate clean after each bite. That’s especially good news if you don’t like to mix your foods and prefer to eat each side by itself. Take a sip or of bubbly between each item and your foods will never have to mix and mingle! At least, before they get to your stomach….
Gustave Lorentz Cremant d’Alsace ~$29.99
Really, most any Cremant d’Alsace above $18 is going to be great. Alsace is one of the warmest growing regions in France – a heavy contrast to its sparkling partner in crime, Champagne. Anytime you see “cremant” it means that it’s a French wine made in the same style (aka traditional method) as Champagne. However, the hotter climate means the grapes get riper, so they typically have a bit more body and fruit-forwardness (rather than brioche-esque notes). Gustave Lorentz winery has been in the business since 1836 – the same family has been making wine for 6 generations there. Suffice it to say, they know what they’re doing. A combination of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot blanc, this wine has characteristics of yellow stone fruits, ripe red berries, and a lemon-curd finish.
Lini 910 Labrusca Rosato ~$18.99
Lambrusco can get a bad rap, but I have to say there are some darn good ones out there. This is one of them. The color of this wine is an absolute-show-stopping bright, bright pink. It does have some sweeter fruit notes on the nose, but then you get essences of savory. And this wine is dry (simplistically put, not sweet). You think it may taste like candy when you look at it, but give it a whiff and let it dance on your tongue for just a moment. You’ll get refreshing minerality, red fruits, and a bracing zesty finish that allows this wine to pair with so many different foods. The secret is in the minerality that also cleanses the palate.
Happy Thanksgiving! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions, or comment below on what your Thanksgiving wines of choice are!
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